Ullekh NP: China Expert Says Xi Jinping Skipping G-20 Makes ‘Perfect Geopolitical Sense’

publicerad 5 september 2023
Richard McGregor
Richard McGregor, author and senior fellow at the Lowy Institute.

A renowned scholar of China, Xi Jinping’s political style and the tactics of the Chinese Communist Party see an enormous geopolitical message in the Chinese president’s decision to give the G-20 conclave a miss and delegate his premier to travel to New Delhi in his place.

Ullekh NP
Ullekh NP, press photo

By Ullekh NP (ullekhnp.com), a writer, journalist, and political commentator based in New Delhi. This article has previously been published in Open

“Apart from being considered a slight to India, Xi’s absence makes perfect geo-political sense in one respect.

China is in the business of building up BRICS, where it has more friends and influence, and less interest in the G-20, which features more of its rivals,” says Richard McGregor, an award-winning journalist and author of the bestsellers, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers and Xi Jinping: The Backlash. 

Richard McGregor, a Sydney-based senior fellow at the foreign policy think-tank Lowy Institute, is a former Beijing bureau chief of the Financial Times. He has also authored other books that include Japan Swings: Politics, Culture and Sex in the New Japan and Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century.

The G-20 meeting will be held in New Delhi September 9-10. Xi Jinping attended the G-20 summit in Bali in November 2022. This time, however, officials say he plans to send Premier Li Qiang to New Delhi instead.

A section of political commentators maintains that Xi wants to undermine the global forum as well as embarrass India, the G-20 chair this year, at a time when New Delhi’s global clout is on the rise worldwide.

Xi has never missed a G-20 meeting and therefore, his decision to opt out and send Li is also seen as a confirmation of China’s resolve to focus more on BRICS, which, at its recent summit in Johannesburg saw the inclusion of six new members to the grouping.

Besides existing members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, BRICS will have from January 1, 2024, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia as members. The new BRICS will represent more than half of the world’s population and, thanks to the presence of major oil-producing countries in the Middle East, account for 43% of global oil production.

Meanwhile, tensions have remained high between India and China over border disputes. In an earlier interview with Open magazine, McGregor, on being asked about the motives behind China’s coercive diplomacy and aggressive military posturing as regards India, had said,

“It is striking that China would take on India at a moment when they ought, by any rational calculation, to be looking for any friend they can get.

The India confrontation, then, tells you something both about their confidence and their indifference to countervailing views. It is also possible they wanted to test out the PLA’s capabilities.”

McGregor, who is currently travelling in China, is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the US and was earlier a visiting scholar at the Wilson Center and George Washington University.

While some pundits aver that Xi’s decision is a setback to the stature of the G-20, some others are of the view that it will give Western leaders more time to interact with countries such as India.

The G-20, founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis comprising finance ministers and central bank governors, later became a meeting of heads of states of 19 countries and the European Union to discuss economic cooperation. Since 2011, the summit has been held annually under the leadership of a rotating presidency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will also not attend the G-20 talks in New Delhi as the Kremlin had announced earlier. As usual, foreign Sergey Lavrov will attend the meeting just as he did in Bali last year and at the BRICS meet in Johannesburg.

India has taken care not to let geopolitical fault lines, especially over the war in Ukraine, affect the grouping and has insisted vigorously on treating it as an economic forum. It has not invited Ukraine, in sharp contrast with what Indonesia had done in 2022 by hosting a virtual speech by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which he attacked Russia, a G-20 member, for launching an invasion on his country.

Under India’s G-20 presidency, meetings have taken place across 60 cities in all 28 states and eight union territories in the country, making it an inclusive exercise.

By Ullekh NP. This article has previously been published in Open

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