Biden hopes to meet Xi at G20 despite reports of Chinese president’s absence

US president Joe Biden has expressed his hope that Chinese president Xi Jinping will attend the G20 summit in India next week, following reports that Xi may skip the meeting. Biden, along with more than two dozen world leaders, is scheduled to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi, which starts on 9 September and is being hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, according to Reuters, two of three sources in China said they were informed by Chinese officials of the expected absence of Xi, but they were not aware of the reason. 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.

The two countries have also clashed this week over a new map released by Beijing, which showed 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, while Beijing urged India to “stay calm” over the map and refrain from “over-interpreting” it.

Biden hopes to meet Xi at G20 despite reports of Chinese president’s absence

Biden hopes for a face-to-face meeting with Xi amid strained relations

Biden told reporters on Thursday in Washington that he hoped Xi would attend the G20 summit. “The answer is I hope he attends,” he said. The summit in India had been viewed as a venue for a possible meeting between Xi and Biden, who have confirmed their 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. 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 US and China have been locked in a bitter rivalry over issues ranging from trade and technology to human rights and regional security. The two leaders have spoken twice by phone since Biden took office in January, but have not held any face-to-face meetings. Biden has said he wants to cooperate with China on areas of mutual interest, such as climate change and pandemic response, but also confront China on its unfair trade practices and aggressive behaviour.

Other world leaders may also miss the G20 summit in India

Xi is not the only world leader who may not attend the G20 summit in India. Russian president Vladimir Putin has already said he will not be travelling to New Delhi and will send foreign minister Sergei Lavrov instead. Putin cited the Covid-19 situation in Russia as the reason for his decision.

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. 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.

The G20 summit is an annual gathering of leaders from 19 countries and the European Union, which together account for about 80% of the world’s economic output. The summit aims to address global challenges such as economic growth, development, climate change and health. This year’s summit will be the first in-person meeting of the G20 leaders since 2019, as the 2020 summit was held virtually due to the Covid pandemic.

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