Plans for China's new development bank, one of Beijing's biggest global policy successes, were almost shelved two years ago due to doubts among senior Chinese policymakers.
From worries it wouldn't raise enough funds to concerns other nations wouldn't back it, Beijing was plagued by self-doubt when it first considered setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in early 2013, two sources with knowledge of internal discussions said.
But promises by some Middle East governments to stump up cash and the support of key European nations - to Beijing's surprise and despite U.S. opposition - became a turning point in China's plans to alter the global financial architecture.
The overseas affirmation, combined with the endorsement of stalwart supporters, including a former Chinese vice premier and incoming AIIB President Jin Liqun, a former head of sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp, enabled China to bring the bank from an idea to its imminent inception.
The bank's successful establishment is likely to bolster Beijing's confidence that it can play a leading role in supranational financial institutions, despite the economic headwinds it is facing at home.
"At the start, China wasn't very confident," one of the sources said in reference to Beijing's AIIB plans.
"The worry was that there was no money for this."
A Finance Ministry delegation that called on Southeast Asian nations to gauge interest in the AIIB was not encouraging, the source said. Governments backed the idea, but were too poor to contribute heavily to the bank's funding.
But subsequent visits to the Middle East helped to win the day as regional governments informed China they needed new infrastructure and, crucially, were able to pay for it, a source said.
"They are all oil-producing countries, they have foreign currencies, they were very enthusiastic, and they could shell out the cash," he said.
"That was when we thought 'Ah, this can be done.'"
AIIB declined to comment for this story and referred questions to China's finance ministry, which did not respond to a request for comment.