Xi Jinping will not attend the G20 Summit in New Delhi on September 9-10. “Premier Li Qiang will join the G20 leaders,” the Chinese authorities simply announced without giving any explanation. For the strong man of China, who has presented himself for years as the leader of a new world order, this absence at this meeting of 20 countries representing approximately 85% of the world economy is surprising.
Especially since he came to power a decade ago, Xi Jinping has never missed this meeting. During the pandemic in 2021, the Chinese leader made a video intervention because he was unable to travel to Rome.
“The rivalry with India is an explanation that makes sense,” says sinologist Alex Payette, CEO of the strategic intelligence and geopolitical consulting firm Cercius Group in Canada. Border clashes in the Himalayas are recurrent. Beijing is also angered by New Delhi’s membership in the “Quad”, an informal strategic alliance formed with the United States, Australia and Japan to counter China’s military and economic influence.
Moreover, China complains that India is using the G20 to assert its territorial claims. “However,” continues Alex Payette, “we must look for another explanation in the current strong tensions within the Chinese Communist Party. In his eyes, Xi Jinping could not afford to leave Beijing at this time. “He must stay to confront the malcontents within the party. »
Katsuji Nakazawa, Japanese sinologist and Nikkei columnist, agrees: “There are signs of turmoil within the Chinese political system. » China is not doing well, the economy is slowing, real estate is collapsing, youth unemployment is exploding, the army is shaken by purges at the top, the former foreign minister Qin Gang has disappeared from the landscape … And Nakazawa assures that the old leaders of the party would have demanded that Xi Jinping resolve all these problems which “discredit the Communist Party”. And while China’s image continues to deteriorate in the eyes of Westerners, and within the G20, “Xi Jinping does not want to lose face”, assures Valérie Niquet, political scientist specializing in Asia at the Foundation for strategic research (FRS).
Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 this year contrasts with his notable presence last month in South Africa for a Brics summit – a group of five emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). The Chinese president was then at the center of the game for the “historic” enlargement, in his words, to six new members of this organization of which China is a co-founder. “At the G20 Xi Jinping will not be the center of attention,” explains Alfred Wu, associate professor at the University of Singapore. In the eyes of this academic, Xi Jinping could be suffering from “emperor syndrome”: “He prefers to receive foreign dignitaries in China. »
The absence of the Chinese president from the G20 summit also closes the door to an opportunity to renew dialogue with the Western powers, in particular the American rival. President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed” not to be able to see his Chinese counterpart again. Even if the dialogue between the two first world powers is more than ever deadlocked. There will, however, be an upcoming opportunity for Xi and Biden to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum next November in San Francisco. If, however, Xi Jinping confirms his presence.