Absence speaks louder than presence: Xi's no-show has West on edge
Some analysts believe that Xi's expected absence from the G20 summit could be a sign of his dissatisfaction with the existing global governance system.
A report by CNN on Friday detailed how Chinese President Xi Jinping's no-show at the G20 summit in India this month is raising concerns among Western leaders that his first no-attendance to the summit may point out that China is transmitting a clear message about its ambitions to reshape global governance.
Since assuming the presidency for the last three terms, Xi has never missed a summit. His decision to skip this year's summit has been met with speculation, but no official explanation has been given.
There are different theories about why Xi has decided to skip the summit, the report says. Some people believe he is facing health problems or domestic challenges, while others believe that his decision is related to China's strained relations with India over the border dispute.
However, some analysts believe that Xi's expected absence from the G20 summit could be a sign of his dissatisfaction with the existing global governance system, which he sees as too dominated by the US.
Instead, Xi Jinping may be prioritizing other multilateral forums that are more aligned with China's vision for global governance, such as BRICS.
"There may be an element of a deliberate snub to India, but it could also be a statement that there are different governance structures Xi Jinping thinks are important – and the G20 may not be one of them," George Magnus, an economist and associate at the China Center at Oxford University, told CNN.
"(Xi) may have wanted to make an example of the Indian G20 and said, 'this is not something that I’m gonna go to because I’ve got bigger fish to fry.'"
China's absence from the summit may in fact signal a shift in its perception of the forum, which was previously considered a neutral space for global governance.
In the past, China placed great importance on G20 diplomacy and always had its top leaders attend the meetings, even participating via video link during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, recent tensions and rivalry with the US have led China to view the G20 as increasingly aligned with US interests.
This shift is partly due to the presence of US allies within the G20, who have adopted a tougher stance against China at the urging of the Biden administration.
China has also expressed disapproval of India's increasing cooperation with the US, particularly its participation in the Quad, a US-led security alliance that Beijing has labeled the "Indo-Pacific NATO".
The Ukraine conflict is also creating divisions that loom over the summit. Up to this point, India, as the current presidency holder, has not managed to facilitate a consensus for a joint statement in the major G20 meetings, the report states.
China's stance of not condemning Russia's military operation and its ongoing diplomatic backing of Moscow have heightened tensions between China and Western nations.
Chinese analysts agree that Beijing may view the G20 as a platform with declining value and effectiveness, the report adds.
Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University, told CNN that the G20 has become a more "complicated and challenging" arena for Chinese diplomacy in recent years, as the number of member countries friendly to China has decreased.
US-China relations have been strained due to a series of provocative actions by the US, which include visits by US lawmakers to Taiwan, fabricating false information on an alleged 'China threat' to destabilize diplomatic relations with regional neighbors, and more generally the spread of anti-Chinese sentiment across the globe.
The US has been actively pressuring countries across the globe to refrain from purchasing semiconductors and other advanced technologies from Chinese firms in China, instead advocating for the domestic manufacture of microchips via the promotion of the CHIPS Act.
The US claims that products made by its companies are being utilized in Chinese military and surveillance programs, prompting the government to offer incentives, including grants and tax credits, for chip makers who start up their operations in the US.
In the last BRICS summit which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, China issued a number of demands in its BRICS declaration, aiming to undermine Western hegemony at the expense of the multipolar world.
One of the demands that were voiced by China in its declaration was to reform international institutions, in particular the World Bank and the IMF, which are both largely dominated by the US.
It also called for a "comprehensive reform" of the UN, which Beijing regards as biased and Western-centered.