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Biden Hopes Xi Jinping Will Attend G20 Amid Reports Chinese President Will Skip Delhi Summit

Joe Biden has said he hopes Xi Jinping will attend the G20 leaders summit in India next week, following reports the Chinese president will skip the meeting.

“I hope he attends,” Biden told reporters on Thursday in Washington, as some US officials played down the chances of a Xi-Biden meeting in New Delhi, suggesting it would be more likely at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or Apec, conference in San Francisco in November.

The possible absence of Xi was reported by Reuters on Thursday. Analysts quoted by Reuters said any decision by Xi to skip the meeting could be linked to rivalry with host India. They said the move could be a signal that China is reluctant to confer influence on its southern neighbour, one that boasts one of the fastest growing major economies as China’s slows.

Two of three sources in China said they were informed by Chinese officials of the expected absence, but they were not aware of the reason, Reuters said.

The two countries clashed this week after Beijing released a map showing Arunachal Pradesh and the Doklam Plateau, over which the two sides have feuded in the past, as being within China’s borders.

India lodged a formal objection with China on Tuesday. Beijing urged India to “stay calm” over the map, with foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday calling on countries to refrain from “over-interpreting” the map, which also laid claim to disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Xi has attended all other in-person G20 summits since becoming president in 2013, except in 2021 during the Covid pandemic when he joined by video link.

Two Indian officials, one diplomat based in China and one official working for the government of another G20 country said Premier Li Qiang was expected to represent Beijing at the G20 meeting in New Delhi, which starts on 9 September.

Li is also likely to attend a summit of East and South-east Asian leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia from 5 to 7 September, according to a report from Kyodo.

Spokespersons for the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment.

The summit in India had been viewed as a venue for a possible meeting between Xi and Biden, who has confirmed his attendance, as the two superpowers seek to stabilise relations soured by trade and geopolitical tensions.

Xi last met Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia last November.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has already said he will not be travelling to New Delhi and will send foreign minister Sergei Lavrov instead.

The G20 summit is seen as an important showcase for India, with the country coming off a successful lunar landing and touting itself as a rising power with attractive markets and a source for global supply chain diversification.

But relations between the G20 host and China have been troubled for more than three years after soldiers from both sides clashed in the Himalayan frontier in June 2020, resulting in 24 deaths.

Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia Initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) in New York, said Xi skipping the summit could be read as China being “reluctant to cede the centre stage” to India.

“China doesn’t want India to be the voice of the Global South, or to be that country within the Himalayan region to be hosting this very successful G20 summit,” she said.

Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi met at the Brics summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month.
Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi met at the Brics summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month. Photograph: Reuters

Anticipation of a meeting between Xi and Biden had been fuelled by a stream of top US officials visiting Beijing in recent months, including commerce secretary Gina Raimondo earlier this week.

Xi, who secured a precedent-breaking third term as leader last October, has made few overseas trips since China abruptly dropped strict pandemic-induced border controls this year.

While he played a prominent role at a meeting in South Africa last week of leaders of the Brics group of major emerging economies, the Chinese government gave no reason for his absence at a business forum there.

His scheduled speech was delivered instead by China’s commerce minister.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi held a rare conversation with Xi on the sidelines of that Brics summit and highlighted concerns India has about the border dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Several G20 ministerial meetings in India ahead of the summit have been contentious as Russia and China together opposed joint statements that included paragraphs condemning Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine last year.

Source : TheGuardian