Thursday, November 30, 2023

‘Open to other potential candidates’: China’s backing for Ajay Banga to head World Bank doubtful

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Amid frayed US-China relations over Taiwan’s independence, Indian-American business leader Ajay Banga’s candidature for the position of World Bank’s President is no longer a foregone conclusion.

China on Wednesday sounded doubtful about backing Banga to lead the World Bank, saying it is ‘open’ to supporting ”other potential candidates” based on merit.

Reports from Washington said 63-year-old Banga, who is nominated by US President Joe Biden to head the Bank, is due to visit China on Wednesday to meet officials of the People’s Bank of China to seek Beijing’s support for his candidature.

Asked whether China will back Banga, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing in Beijing that ”we have noted the candidate nominated by the US side and are open to other potential candidates”.

He said the World Bank is the most influential multilateral development institution in the world and is of systemic importance to global poverty reduction and development.

”As a major shareholder of the World Bank, China stands ready to work with all parties for an open, transparent and merit-based presidential selection process,” he said and asked the media to competent authorities for more details.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, but is its most important international backer and arms supplier.

An infuriated China staged war games near Taiwan in August 2022 following a Taipei visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a major bone of contention with Washington, which maintains only unofficial ties with Taipei, but is required by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

China believes the United States is colluding with Taiwan to challenge Beijing and giving support to those who want the island to declare formal independence.

Taiwan’s government says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.

Biden last month announced that the US is nominating Banga to lead the World Bank, saying the Indian-American business leader is uniquely equipped to lead the global institution at ”this critical moment in history.” If confirmed by the World Bank Board of Directors, Banga would be the first-ever Indian-American and Sikh-American to head either of the two top international financial institutions: International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Banga currently serves as Vice Chairman at General Atlantic. Previously, he was President and CEO of Mastercard, leading the company through a strategic, technological and cultural transformation. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2016.

”Ajay is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history,” President Biden said in a statement.

”He has spent more than three decades building and managing successful, global companies that create jobs and bring investment to developing economies, and guiding organisations through periods of fundamental change,” Biden said.

With inputs from agencies

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