Analysis: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 summit may be part of his plan to reshape global governance

Hong Kong

When the world’s most powerful leaders head to New Delhi this weekend to address the multiple crises facing the world, noticeably absent will be Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has never missed a G20 summit since taking power in 2012.

As is often the case with opaque decision-making in Beijing, No explanation was given Because of Xi’s apparent decision to skip a major global gathering that China has given high priority in the past. Premier Li Qiang, the country’s second-most senior leader, is expected to attend instead of Xi.

Beijing’s reticence has sparked a wide range of speculation and interpretations, from Xi’s potential health issues and internal troubles at home to disdain in host nation India, whose relations with China have been strained by an ongoing border dispute.

But from the perspective of the great power rivalry between China and the United States, analysts say Xi’s expected non-attendance at the G20 could also signal his disillusionment with the current global governance system — structures that he sees as too dominated by American influence.

Instead, Xi may prioritize multilateral forums that fit China’s own vision of how the world should be governed – such as the recently concluded BRICS summit and the upcoming Belt and Road Forum.

“There may be an element of deliberate disdain for India, but it may also be a statement that there are different governance structures that Xi Jinping thinks are important — and the G20 may not be one of them,” said George Magnus, an expert and economist. Associate of the China Center at the University of Oxford.

“Maybe he (Xi) wanted to make an example of the Indian G20 and said, ‘This is not something I’m going to go to because I have bigger fish to fry.'”

Some analysts say Xi’s absence may represent a shift in how China views the G20, the premier global forum that brings together the world’s leading advanced and emerging economies that account for 80% of global gross domestic product.

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China has grown accustomed to seeing the platform as a relatively neutral space for global governance, and has placed a high priority on G20 diplomacy, said Jake Werner, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Since the first leaders’ summit in 2008, China’s supreme leader has always attended the meeting – including via video link during the Covid pandemic. When China hosted its first G20 summit in 2016, it did so I pulled out all the stops To make this event a success and demonstrate its growing influence on the global stage.

But since then, relations between the world’s two largest economies have become fraught with tension and increasing competition. “Now, China sees the G20 space as increasingly oriented toward the United States and its agenda, which Xi Jinping considers anti-China,” Werner said.

About half of the group’s members are US allies, and the Biden administration has mobilized them to take a tougher stance against China. Werner said Beijing is increasingly viewing tensions with other members — such as the border dispute with India — through its difficult relationship with the United States.

Beijing has expressed anger at New Delhi’s growing ties with Washington, especially its participation in the Quad – a US-led security group that Beijing has criticized as “the NATO of the Indo-Pacific”.

“China sees India in the anti-China camp and therefore does not want to add value to the major international summit organized by India,” said Habimon Jacob, professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Divisions over the war in Ukraine also cast a shadow over the summit. So far, India has not been able to broker a joint statement at any of the major G20 meetings since it assumed the presidency last December.

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China’s refusal to condemn the Russian invasion and its continued diplomatic support for Moscow have amplified its friction with the West.

China said it believes the G20 should be limited to economic discussions. “It should not be politicized about the geopolitical fault lines that the United States and the Europeans want to push,” Werner said.

Chinese analysts agree that Beijing may view the G20 as a platform of diminishing value and effectiveness.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said the G20 has become a more “complex and challenging” stage for Chinese diplomacy than it was several years ago, with the number of China-friendly members dwindling.

The last thing Attend it The G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November last year, when he emerged from China’s coronavirus isolation He announced his return To the world stage. During the two-day summit, he held diplomatic meetings with 11 world leaders – including US President Joe Biden – He invited many of them to visit China.

Since then, a long line of foreign dignitaries have knocked on Beijing’s door to meet Xi, including G20 leaders from Germany, France, Brazil, Indonesia and the European Union, as well as G20 leaders. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Meanwhile, Xi has made only two trips abroad this year – each of them central to his attempt to reshape the global world order.

In March, Shi Travel to Moscow To meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin – an “old friend” who shares his deep distrust of American power. Last month, he attended the BRICS summit of emerging countries in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the bloc is located announce Accepting six new members.

This expansion, which Xi described as “historic.” Big victory For Beijing, which has long sought to transform this loose economic grouping into a geopolitical counterweight to the West.

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Magnus, the Oxford University expert, said the expanded BRICS group is an example of the alternative governance structure Beijing wants to build — it includes some of the most important countries in the global South, with China playing a central role.

In recent years, Xi has laid out his vision for a new world order by announcing three global initiatives – the Global Security Initiative (a new security architecture without alliances), the Global Development Initiative (a new means of financing economic growth) and the Global Civilization Initiative (a new state-defined value system that is not subject to value boundaries). Globalism).

Although it is broad in scope and vague in substance, it is “designed to be an umbrella under which countries can rally around the narrative set by China, which is different from the type of governance structure prevailing under the auspices of the G20,” Magnus said.

Next month, the Chinese leader is expected to host the Belt and Road Forum to mark the 10th anniversary of his global infrastructure and trade initiative – a key element of Beijing’s new global governance architecture.

Magnus said that initiatives such as the Belt and Road, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – of which Beijing is either a founder or a major player – now enjoy high profile in China.

“These entities exist as alternative structures to those that China has traditionally joined and had to share the spotlight with the United States,” he said.

“It also sends a message to the rest of the world — not just countries of the Global South but also countries hesitant in the world of liberal democracy — that this is China’s position.”

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