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Xi Jinping’s Absence at G20 Summit 2023, Possible reasons and Implications

Premier Li Qiang is set to represent China at the upcoming meeting in Delhi, slated for September 9-10. Notably, President Xi Jinping’s absence from the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in India this week is being perceived in India as a diplomatic slight, further straining the already-chilled relations between the two nuclear-armed Asian nations. This decision by Chinese President Xi Jinping marks a fresh setback in their bilateral ties. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind Xi Jinping’s non-participation in the G20 Summit Reasons and Meanings for India and the World.

Reasons behind Xi Jinping’s Absence at G20 Summit 2023

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning refrained from providing an official explanation for Xi Jinping’s decision to abstain from the G20 meeting. However, it is widely acknowledged that the relationship between China and India has grown increasingly strained due to their ongoing border disputes.

There are several probable reasons behind Xi Jinping’s non-participation in the G20 Summit:

Territorial Disputes

China recently released a “standard map” asserting territorial claims over areas including Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, Taiwan, and the South China Sea. India strongly protested this move, marking the first time it vehemently rejected China’s claims. The timing of this map release, just ahead of the G20 Summit, raised eyebrows, especially in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent concerns expressed to Xi Jinping during the BRICS Summit regarding the situation along the Line of Actual Control.

Frosty Border Relations

Tensions between China and India have escalated due to their disputed border. This conflict flared up three years ago, resulting in a fatal clash in the Ladakh region that claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers. It has since evolved into a prolonged standoff in the rugged mountainous terrain, with both sides deploying substantial military forces supported by artillery, tanks, and fighter jets.

Trade Frictions and Global Alliances

Frictions have also arisen over trade issues, and India’s deepening strategic ties with the United States, a major rival to China. Both countries have expelled each other’s journalists in the midst of these tensions.

Geostrategic Significance

Political scientist Wen-Ti Sung from the Australian National University suggested that Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the G20 Summit following the BRICS summit may be a visual representation of his narrative of “East rising and West falling.” It could also be seen as a show of solidarity with Russian President Putin, who is also not attending the G20 Summit.

Domestic Priorities

Associate Professor Alfred Wu, from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, proposed that Xi might be hesitant to travel abroad, given his focus on domestic issues, particularly national security. Wu argued that Xi Jinping is shaping his own agenda, with a primary emphasis on maintaining national security and having foreign leaders visit him in China rather than him traveling abroad.

Chinese obstructionism

China’s behavior during the G20 meetings has been marked by obstructionism, setting it apart as the sole G20 member state to oppose numerous Indian G20 initiatives over the past year. Leading up to the Summit, China took a divergent stance on nearly every issue discussed within the G20 framework.

Notably, China opposed the inclusion of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ a Sanskrit phrase from the Maha Upanishad, which serves as the thematic foundation of India’s G20 presidency, in various G20 documents. China’s argument centered on the use of Sanskrit, a language not among the six official languages recognized by the United Nations, in official G20 texts.

Furthermore, China has raised objections to initiatives such as Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), women-led development, and support for Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs). Reports suggest that China obstructed discussions on addressing climate change during G20 meetings and notably chose not to participate in the tourism-related discussions held in Srinagar.

Foreign policy experts have interpreted China’s obstructive behavior as an indication of Beijing’s reservations concerning India’s leadership within the Global South, highlighting the complexities of diplomatic relations within the G20 framework.

Putin’s Absence at G20 Summit 2023

China’s President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the upcoming G20 Summit is noteworthy, especially considering his recent discussions with PM Modi on the sidelines of international summits like the BRICS summit and last year’s G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. These repeated absences could potentially strain relations with India, especially as the two nuclear-armed neighbors remain embroiled in a border dispute.

On the other hand, the Kremlin has cited Putin’s busy schedule, primarily centered around overseeing Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which has been ongoing for over a year. During a phone call with PM Modi, Putin expressed that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would represent Russia at the G20 Summit in his place.

Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, has faced significant backlash from Western nations due to its military operations in Ukraine, resulting in a barrage of sanctions and counter-sanctions. In this complex international landscape, India has opted for a neutral stance, neither siding with the West nor Russia. This approach has led to dissatisfaction from Western powers. While maintaining close ties with the US, India has abstained from voting in favor of UN resolutions condemning the war in Ukraine and has refrained from joining US-led sanctions against Russia, which remains a crucial supplier of weapons and affordable energy.

Simultaneously, India has positioned itself as a counterbalance to China’s growing geopolitical and economic influence. India has actively sought more military technology transfers from the US and its allies in its efforts to strengthen its defense capabilities.

India’s Reaction to Xi Jinping and Putin’s Absence at G20 Summit 2023

India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, has clarified that the non-participation of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming G20 summit in New Delhi should not be viewed as unusual or linked to India. Jaishankar stressed that the absence of these leaders should not detract from the significance of the event. He noted that throughout the history of the G20, there have been instances where presidents or prime ministers have opted not to attend international gatherings, and the representatives present on their behalf accurately convey their country’s stance.

G20 Meeting and India

In the words of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, “We have treated the G20 presidency not as an event but as a national celebration.”

Navigating a Complex Geopolitical Landscape

Beyond the “Incredible India 2.0” campaign, the G20 summit has become a significant exercise in global geopolitics. The world is witnessing increasing fractures, with reports suggesting that not only Vladimir Putin but also Xi Jinping may choose to skip the Leaders’ Summit. While the summit itself may remain largely unaffected, the hope for a cohesive Leaders’ Statement from Indian officials now appears uncertain due to profound divisions among major countries, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict being just one example.

India has a longstanding tradition of walking diplomatic tightropes in the international arena, but this year presents particularly formidable challenges as it stands at the crossroads of complex global geopolitical and geo-economic fault lines. India continues to purchase Russian oil while being a member of the Quad Alliance. It finds itself in a military standoff with China while also being a part of BRICS. The decisions India makes in this intricate geopolitical landscape will not only shape its own development but also its position on the global stage.

Throughout the year, India’s G20 priorities have centered around its national development goals, including socioeconomic transformation through digital public infrastructure, sustainable development goals (SDGs), and climate finance. India initiated the G20 year with the LiFE campaign, emphasizing sustainability and even introducing millet as a symbol of sustainable growth. Various acronyms have been introduced, such as the B20 theme RAISE.

Voice of the Global South

India has also ventured into more challenging territories, such as advocating for reforms in multilateral development banks (MDBs) and expediting debt resolution for impoverished nations in the Global South. India’s most significant achievement at this summit is expected to be the progress made in reforming MDBs. An expert group led by Finance Commission chairman NK Singh and American economist Larry Summers has been actively engaged in this endeavor. The support garnered from MDBs themselves has been substantial, with consensus on key recommendations like capital adequacy framework utilization.

Despite China’s opposition to many of India’s proposals on climate, health, and other issues, a broader consensus has been established on topics such as green development, SDGs, climate finance, and technology transformation.

A Unique Geopolitical Opportunity

While the 2008 Beijing Olympics showcased China’s potential as a rising superpower, the G20 summit is not a singular “India moment” in the same vein. Nonetheless, it represents a unique geopolitical juncture for India and an opportunity to carve out a distinct space in global geopolitics. Several factors have contributed to India’s narrative in 2023, making it a year of significance on the global stage.

Way Forward for India

In this complex geopolitical landscape, India should continue to navigate diplomatic challenges with finesse and strategic foresight. Here are some suggested approaches:

  • Engagement and Dialogue: India should remain committed to engagement and dialogue with all relevant parties, including China and Russia. Bilateral talks and diplomatic channels can be used to address concerns and build bridges in areas of contention.
  • Multilateral Diplomacy: India’s leadership within the G20 offers an opportunity to promote multilateralism and bridge differences among member states. India can play a constructive role in facilitating discussions and finding common ground on global challenges.
  • Balancing Act: India’s ability to balance its relationships with major powers like the United States, China, and Russia is crucial. Maintaining a position of strategic autonomy allows India to pursue its national interests while avoiding unnecessary conflicts.
  • Conflict Resolution: India’s role in conflict resolution, particularly in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its own border issues with China, should be characterized by impartiality and diplomacy. India can leverage its diplomatic skills to encourage peaceful resolutions.
  • Global South Solidarity: India should continue to champion the interests of the Global South within international forums. By strengthening partnerships with other developing nations, India can amplify its influence and advocate for a more equitable global order.
  • Economic Diplomacy: India’s economic ties, including trade and energy partnerships, should be managed with a long-term perspective. Diversifying energy sources and expanding trade relations can reduce vulnerability to geopolitical shifts.
  • Digital Diplomacy: Leveraging its digital capabilities, India can play a leading role in bridging the global digital divide. Sharing technology and expertise with developing countries can promote inclusive growth and enhance India’s soft power.
  • Climate Leadership: India’s commitment to sustainable development and climate action should remain a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Collaborative efforts on climate change can foster goodwill and enhance India’s global standing.
  • Flexible Alliances: India should maintain flexibility in its alliances, adapting to changing geopolitical dynamics. Strengthening ties with like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific region can help safeguard its interests.
  • Public Diplomacy: Effective communication and public diplomacy efforts can shape India’s image as a responsible global player. Engaging with international media, think tanks and civil society can help convey its perspective and intentions.

In conclusion, India faces a challenging but pivotal moment in global geopolitics. By pursuing a balanced, principled, and proactive foreign policy, India can continue to assert its leadership and contribute to a more stable and equitable world order.

 

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Xi Jinping's Absence at G20 Summit 2023 FAQs

What is the theme of G20 Summit 2023?

The theme for G20 Summit 2023 is 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — One Earth, One Family, One Future.'

What is the G20 and what are the key issues for the 2023 Delhi Summit?

The world's 20 major countries formed an economic grouping after the Asian financial crisis in 1999. Under India's year-long presidency, the bloc has centred discussions around more loans to developing nations from multilateral institutions, reforming international debt architecture, regulations on cryptocurrency and the impact of geopolitical uncertainties on food and energy security.

What is the main purpose of G20?

The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation and sustainable development. All leaders at the 2021 G20 Summit in Rome, Italy.

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