China and 20 other countries signed a memorandum on Friday agreeing to create an international development bank that Beijing hopes will rival organizations like the World Bank. But some leading Asian countries refrained from joining the project, which the United States has been quietly lobbying against.
Japan, Australia, South Korea and Indonesia were not represented at the signing ceremony for the bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in Beijing. India joined the bank, along with Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, news agencies reported.
日本、澳大利亚、韩国和印度尼西亚均未派代表参加亚洲基础设施投资银行（Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank，简称亚投行）相关文件的签字仪式。据各通讯社消息，加入该银行的国家除印度以外，还有马来西亚、泰国、越南和菲律宾。
The bank, proposed a year ago by President Xi Jinping of China, is to offer financing for infrastructure projects in underdeveloped countries across Asia. China, which has promised to contribute much of the initial $50 billion in capital, sees it as a way to increase its influence in the region after years of fruitless lobbying for more say in other multinational lending organizations.
But the United States, with allies like Australia and South Korea, has campaigned against the project, characterizing it as an attempt to undercut the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which are dominated by the United States and Japan.
Mr. Xi, meeting with representatives of the founding members after the signing ceremony, said the new bank "will help to improve global financial governance," according to Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news agency.
Australia has yet to make a decision on joining, Gemma Daley, a spokeswoman for Joe Hockey, the treasurer of Australia, said on Friday. The South Korean finance minister, Choi Kyung-hwan, said this week that Seoul was willing to participate under certain conditions, including a commitment from the bank to meet international standards on issues like the environmental impact of projects. "If such issues are resolved, there will be no reason for us not to join," Mr. Choi said on Wednesday.
Still, the countries' absence on Friday was a blow to the project.
Chinese officials have said that the bank is intended to complement existing lending organizations, not to compete with them. In March, Lou Jiwei, the Chinese finance minister, said the bank would "mainly focus on infrastructure construction," whereas the World Bank and Asian Development Bank "put their priorities more on poverty reduction."
The Asian Development Bank's president, Takehiko Nakao, disputed that view on Thursday.
China already directly finances many infrastructure projects in the developing world, and many Chinese analysts see the bank as a sensible next step.
Wang Yong, director of Peking University's Center for International Political Economy Research, said it was natural for China to work with other countries to fill the investment gap in infrastructure, which he called "tremendous." The Asian Development Bank estimated in 2009 that the region would need $8 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020.