As one era ends, another begins. Or so China would have it.

This was most decidedly evident at the recent signing ceremony in Beijing in which China championed a new kind of international financial institution that it may well hope marks the dawn of an Asia-led economic order — if not perhaps a return to an older order, with the Middle Kingdom at its core.

Distinct and different from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which were established under Western leadership as part of a post-World War II financial architecture envisioned at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has quickly taken shape without either Washington or Tokyo's support. Both nations were notably absent from this week's celebrations in Beijing given their governments' decision to refrain from joining the AIIB, even as more than 50 other nations, including close European and Asian allies, did so.