Initial English-language media coverage of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was framed in terms of strategic rivalry between China and the United States and China's frustration with slow reform to existing multilateral development banks (MDBs). But the United States, not China, turned the AIIB into a battle for global influence, which the United States lost when key allies joined the bank. China had a positive agenda for establishing the AIIB, particularly as part of its flagship 'one belt, one road' regional initiative. By establishing a multilateral lender for Asian infrastructure, China can de-politicize what can be fraught bilateral financing deals as well as boost its image in the region. This requires the AIIB being a truly multilateral institution. The AIIB will have to meet the standards of other MDBs, particularly for safeguards, procurement and transparency. The bank will be under international scrutiny and AIIB shareholders should build the bank cautiously, initially focusing on co-financing with other MDBs. The AIIB need not mirror existing lenders, but can learn from their experience and improve on their efficiency. The AIIB will be a learning experience for China and could boost its credentials for future multilateral leadership.