Global fractures on display at G20 summit

Sep 11, 2023, 8:10am EDT
U.S. President Joe Biden visits the Raj Ghat memorial with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and other G20 leaders, Sept. 10, 2023, in New Delhi. Kenny Holston/Pool via REUTERS
Kenny Holston/Pool via REUTERS
politicsSouth Asia
Jenna Moon/

This weekend’s G20 summit in India highlighted the growing tensions between global powers, with Washington and Beijing falling into rival blocs.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping was notably absent, with his stand-in, Premier Li Qiang, holding fewer bilateral talks than Xi did in 2022.

The U.S. is attempting to reduce its reliance on China, and committed Sunday to a new trade pact with Vietnam. The agreement will see Vietnam supply the U.S. with rare earth metals,1 critical components of the high-tech semiconductor chips used in everything from smartphones to satellites. U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Hanoi, following the G20 meet in New Delhi, has sparked speculation of a "new Cold War" with China, a claim Biden roundly denied. "The greatest win is that this partnership puts [Washington] more firmly in Beijing's backyard," journalist Laura Bicker wrote for the BBC.2

Beijing has reportedly challenged the U.S. holding the G20 presidency in 2026, the Financial Times reported. The nation that chairs the annual meeting changes each year, with Brazil, South Africa, and the U.S. expected to head the next three summits. Diplomats representing China pushed back against the U.S.'s expected leadership, but their bid ultimately failed. The spat showcases growing tensions between the two countries: Sources who spoke to the newspaper said that China's challenge to the U.S. was not based on "G20-related issues."3

The G20 bloc avoided condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in its communique, highlighting the deep divides between nations about how the war should end. Pro-Ukraine groups denounced the communique as "weak," Politico reported, as the West "effectively [sacrificed] a fuller public denunciation of Russia to save the G20," reporters Suzanne Lynch and Alex Ward noted.4 That the communique came at all signals India's success as a G20 host: In working to counter China's dominance in the Global South, the U.S. has been leaning on New Delhi and was invested in "making sure India got a win," Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Bloomberg.5