China will officially launch a new $50 billion Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank on Friday as it steps up its challenge to global financial institutions like the World Bank that it feels are dominated by America and its allies.
But only 20 mostly small economies, many of them effectively client states of China, will become founding members of the bank at Friday's ceremony in Beijing after Washington lobbied furiously to stop other countries from signing up.
When it first unveiled its plan to establish the bank last year, Beijing extended a broad invitation and several European states, as well as Australia, Indonesia and South Korea initially showed interest.
But thanks to pressure from the US – conveyed by US diplomats in Beijing, Washington and other capitals – none of these countries will join the bank at this stage, although some are hoping to be involved later.
India will be the only large economy to sign up to the Chinese initiative at the ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday morning, according to people familiar with the matter.
It will be joined by Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and all of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations except Indonesia.
Indonesia excused itself from being involved at this stage, saying the newly installed government had not yet had time to consider Beijing's proposal.
By Wednesday evening, three of the agreed signatory countries were waiting for final approval from their highest level of government.