Opinion: Xi’s Absence At G20 Will Allow Biden To Dominate
By Daniel Russel
Asia Society Vice President for International Security and Diplomacy
NEW YORK, NY – Chinese President Xi Jinping attended every G-20 leaders meeting from the time he took office until the pandemic. And he recently traveled to South Africa to attend a BRICS summit in person. So, his decision to skip this week’s G-20 in New Delhi is significant.
The tensions between Delhi and Beijing, and the apparent animosity between the two leaders, seems the likeliest explanation — but we do not know. Not even offering an alibi makes it look like Xi Jinping is snubbing Modi — it points to the troubled state of PRC-Indian relations.
It’s true that Chinese Premier Li Qian will substitute, but Li lacks the stature of past Chinese prime ministers like Zhu Rongzhi who wielded significant decision-making on economic matters.
Xi Jinping’s absence precludes the possibility of even a cursory U.S.-China leaders meeting, despite Biden’s often stated desire to speak with Xi.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was on the receiving end of harsh comments at the G-20 Foreign Minister’s meeting over Russia’s war of aggression, so it is no surprise that Putin declined to open himself to similar in-person criticism.
Xi Jinping’s rationale is less clear, but the signaling from Beijing suggests that he is keeping Biden at arm’s length — and making no commitment to attend the November APEC Summit in San Francisco — in an attempt to pressure Washington into making concessions such as easing export restrictions on advanced semiconductors and equipment.
Ironically, the absence of Putin and Xi leaves the field open to Biden to dominate the agenda as well as the airwaves. He can be expected to press for stronger measures against Russia, on clean energy transition, and on measures to deal with crushing debt among developing nations — the vast amount of which is held by China.