Xi Jinping's Absence at G20: Diplomatic Disquiet or Domestic Dilemmas?

As New Delhi prepares to host a G20 summit amidst global crises, an absence at the high table has garnered significant attention – that of China’s President, Xi Jinping

by Faruk Imamovic
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Xi Jinping's Absence at G20: Diplomatic Disquiet or Domestic Dilemmas?
© Getty Images News/LIntao Zhang

As New Delhi prepares to host a G20 summit amidst global crises, an absence at the high table has garnered significant attention – that of China’s President, Xi Jinping. As the most powerful leaders of the world converge, speculation is rife about the reasons behind Jinping’s decision to skip the summit, a first since his ascendancy to power in 2012.

Diplomatic Signals or Domestic Struggles?

Xi's conspicuous absence has fueled an array of speculations. Some posit that he's facing health challenges or is dealing with pressing domestic issues, reports CNN. However, the most buzzworthy theory is that the Chinese premier's decision might be a snub directed at India.

With Sino-Indian relations at a historic low, primarily due to their border dispute, many experts view this as a symbolic gesture underlining the tension between the two Asian giants. It's not just the bilateral relationship that might be at play.

Xi seems to be aligning more towards multilateral platforms that resonate with China’s vision for global governance. For instance, the recently concluded BRICS summit and the forthcoming Belt and Road Forum appear to be getting higher precedence in Beijing's diplomatic calendar.

George Magnus, an economist affiliated with the China Center at Oxford University, weighed in: “There may be an element of a deliberate snub to India, but it could also be a statement that there are different governance structures Xi Jinping thinks are important – and the G20 may not be one of them”.

Magnus further emphasized that Jinping might be sending a broader message about China's priorities, inferring, “(Xi) may have wanted to make an example of the Indian G20 and said, ‘this is not something that I’m gonna go to because I’ve got bigger fish to fry.’”

G20: Economic Forum or Geopolitical Battleground?

Adding another layer to this complex web is China’s stance on Russia.

Beijing has refrained from condemning Moscow’s invasion, thus intensifying its existing rift with Western powers. China's perspective on what the G20 should represent has been clear. Werner, an analyst, stated, “China has said that it thinks the G20 should be limited to economic discussions.

It shouldn’t be politicized around the geopolitical fault lines that the United States and the Europeans want to push”. As the G20 summit unfolds, the underlying political currents are bound to shape the narrative, with or without Xi Jinping's presence. The coming days will reveal more about the evolving dynamics of global power politics.

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