Why Xi might be snubbing India’s G20 summit

Sep 1, 2023, 10:08am EDT
politicsSouth Asia
Karina Tsui/

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will likely skip the G20 summit in New Delhi this month, Reuters reported, following news that Russian President Vladimir Putin would also not attend. Li Qiang, China’s premier will attend the Sept 9-10 meetings in Xi’s place.

Xi’s reasons for skipping the summit are unclear — but experts believe that his excuses for missing the high-profile meetings are not convincing. Xi’s decision to back out of the G20 summit is “unprecedented,1 ” said Georgetown University professor of Asian Studies Dennis Wilder. "None of the explanations — tensions with India, unready to meet with Biden, fears of not being received well by EU leaders because of Ukraine — seem compelling," Wilder said.

Xi’s attendance at all G20 meetings since taking office in 2013 was perceived as China asserting its dominance among the forum’s leaders. Some experts in India feel that by snubbing the New Delhi summit, Xi is attempting to undermine its importance and India’s growing economic and demographic clout. “China doesn’t want India to have a successful G20 — it’s that simple,”2 Indrani Bagchi of the Ananta Aspen Centre told the Financial Times. Tensions between the two countries have been simmering over disputes along the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas.

Despite their differences, G20 leaders want to talk to Xi3 and feel that a dialogue with Beijing, the world’s second-largest economy, is crucial for a functioning world order. Xi also has an incentive to talk — as shoring up good relations with the U.S., the U.K., and other members will only help steady China’s faltering economy. For now, however, Xi is focused on boosting alternate power blocs4 . Last week, China took the lead in initiating the expansion of the BRICS forum of developing nations — inviting six new members, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.