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China's Absence from G20 Summit in India: Unveiling Possible Reasons and Implications
Ajay Mohan
2023-09-04
Region : G-20, Economy,
Issue : ,
The G20 summit is a major international forum that brings together the leaders of 19 countries and the European Union to discuss global economic and financial issues. The summit is hosted by a rotating presidency, and this year, India is the host country. The summit is scheduled to take place in New Delhi on September 9 and 10, 2023.

However, not all the leaders of the G20 members are expected to attend the summit in person. According to media reports, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have decided to skip the summit for different reasons. While Putin has cited the need to focus on the “special military operation” in Ukraine as the reason for his absence, Xi’s decision is more mysterious and has raised some speculation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend the G20 summit in India, with Premier Li Qiang expected to represent China. Xi is also skipping the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Jakarta. The exact reason for his absence remains undisclosed, but potential factors, strained Sino-Indian relations, domestic priorities, geopolitical shifts, and diplomatic messaging. The absence raises questions about the underlying motivations and dynamics at play in China's engagement with these international gatherings. There could be some reasons for Xi’s absence in the G-20.

India Protests China's New Map Claiming Arunachal Pradesh:
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Just a few days ago, China released a map asserting Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory. India had strongly protested against China's alleged map, which claimed Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. India had stated that such actions only complicate the resolution of border disputes. The Ministry of External Affairs had also dismissed China's claims as baseless. Responding to the Chinese move, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar had said, "Merely making unfounded claims does not alter the territory of others."

Modi Holds China Accountable for Border Crisis at BRICS:
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During the BRICS summit, Modi tried to hold China responsible for the ongoing tension over the border in a small interaction with Xi. Xi Jinping did not like it.

China's Demand for a Sideline Meeting:
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India has determined that it's not beneficial or productive to meet with China on the sidelines of the G-20 summit at this time. This decision may be influenced by the ongoing issues or tensions between the two countries or other considerations.

China Pledges Coercive Pressure Amidst India-US Ties:
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China has indicated that it treats India as an adversary and will put coercive pressure on New Delhi for having close ties with the United States and the Quad powers. It will maintain the military pressure up all along the 3488 km LAC and also arm its tributary state Pakistan to put pressure on India’s western borders.

Chinese President Upset by PM Modi's Conditions for Normalizing Ties:
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The Chinese president is miffed with PM Modi’s response that normal ties can be resumed only after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) withdraws its forces from Aksai Chin and the Indian Army’s patrolling rights are restored in Depsang Bulge and CNN junction in Demchok.

Domestic issues:
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China may be facing some internal challenges that require Xi’s attention and presence. For instance, China is preparing for the 21st National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2024, which will decide Xi’s future role and power. Xi may want to consolidate his position and deal with any potential rivals or dissenters within the party. China is also facing economic slowdown, social unrest, environmental problems, and international pressure on issues such as human rights, trade, and Taiwan.

Diplomatic Tensions:
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China may be reluctant to engage with some of its adversaries or rivals at the G20 summit, especially India and the US. China and India have been locked in a border standoff since 2020, which has resulted in several clashes and casualties. The two countries have held several rounds of talks to resolve the dispute, but no breakthrough has been achieved so far. China and the US have also been engaged in strategic competition and confrontation on various fronts, such as trade, technology, security, and human rights. Xi may not want to face criticism or pressure from these countries on these sensitive issues.

Whatever the reason for Xi’s absence, it does not necessarily reflect anything about the host country or the importance of the G20 summit. Many leaders in the past have skipped the G20 summits for various reasons and it does not affect the outcome or effectiveness of the event. They also said that the level of attendance at global summits varies from year to year and it is not always possible for every leader to attend every summit.

During various G20 summits, several countries were represented by officials below the level of heads of state or government. Examples include Saudi Arabia in 2010 (represented by its finance minister), France in 2011 (represented by its foreign minister), Germany in 2012 (represented by its finance minister), Brazil in 2013 (represented by its vice president), Spain in 2016 (represented by its foreign minister), and Turkey in 2017 (represented by its deputy prime minister). This reflects the varying levels of representation among G20 member nations over the years.

Xi Jinping's absence from the G20 summit in India is unlikely to greatly affect the summit's agenda or results. Nevertheless, it could suggest broader concerns or challenges China is dealing with on the global stage. The absence may also have implications for China's relations with India and other G20 member countries.

Ajay Mohan is Director- Foreign Observer Research India (FORE INDIA)

The views expressed above belong to the author(s)


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