First Mover Advantage: The United Kingdom and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

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In March 2015, the UK applied to become a founder member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) despite objections from the Foreign Office and Washington, DC, and ahead of other major western countries although they were to follow quickly. What explains the British decision? The paper argues that the underlying long-run reasons included shifting perceptions of American and Chinese power, economic imperatives, the institutional opportunities offered to pursue “venue-shopping” strategies within the British state, and widespread ambivalence about UK policy towards China. Furthermore, although analyses often eschew “snapshot” perspectives, short-run perceptions that the UK could, by joining the AIIB at that point, gain a first mover advantage that would provide greater access to Chinese markets, secure contracts across Asia for British firms, and enable the City of London to win an even greater share of the offshore renminbi trade proved decisive.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAsia Europe Journal - Intercultural Studies in the Social Sciences and Humanities
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)411-425
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 13 May 2021.


  • United Kingdom
  • Infrastructure
  • Development finance
  • China
  • First mover advantage

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