Legitimacy Struggles in Global Governance: Legitimation and Delegitimation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

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The Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) started operation in January 2016 in the context of severe criticism from the U.S. government and transnational civil society organizations, but with the support from major Asian and European states. The establishment of this new global governance institution (GGI) raises intriguing questions concerning legitimacy and (de)legitimation. What legitimacy challenges has the AIIB as a new institution experienced and how has the Bank tried to boost its legitimacy? What specific legitimation and delegitimation practices have been applied by what actors and with what effects? Contributing to research on legitimacy in global governance, this article develops a framework for analyzing legitimacy struggles. It highlights the dynamic relations between legitimation (practices intended to boost beliefs that the rule of a political institution is exercised appropriately) and delegitimation (practices challenging the appropriateness of a political institution’s exercise of authority). The framework includes a systematic study of different agents of (de)legitimation (including GGIs, states, and nonstate actors), practices of (de)legitimation (categorized as institutional and discursive), and institutional sources of (de)legitimation (related to procedure as well as performance). The case study, based on indepth qualitative content analysis of documents produced by the AIIB and other actors, demonstrates how legitimizers and delegitimizers respond to each other. Being a new GGI, legitimacy struggles on the AIIB have to a large extent focused on its institutional design referring to (the lack of) democratic procedures. Legitimizers tend to stress technocratic performance, whereas delegitimizers are more concerned with fair performance.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 14

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science


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