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Chinese leader a no-show at G20, appears to be trying to buck the current world order in favor of a new one

 September 10, 2023

The G20 summit, held this year in New Delhi, India, saw leaders of the world's most influential nations coming together. However, noticeably absent was China's paramount leader, Xi Jinping.

This omission signals more than just a scheduling conflict; it signifies a broader shift in China's stance on global relations.

For years, Xi seemed to champion China as a contrasting pillar to the West. Yet, this withdrawal indicates that China is now pivoting to confront Western institutions directly rather than merely offering an alternative, The Atlantic reported.

China's engagement with the West was primarily propelled by Xi's predecessors, who integrated China into the U.S.-dominated global framework.

Institutions like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization saw China as an active participant, even as tensions grew between Beijing and Washington. However, Xi's recent maneuvers reveal a gradual disillusionment with these Western institutions.

Crafting New Alliances

It's no secret that Xi Jinping has sought to shape alternative structures where Beijing holds the reins. The inception of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a counterpart to the World Bank and the promotion of forums like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia and Iran, illustrates this ambition.

Although Xi may retain ties with institutions like the United Nations, where he sees potential for aligning with his objectives, the G20 isn't among them. Beijing's decision to dispatch Premier Li Qiang instead of Xi underlines this sentiment.

The Chinese government's silence on Xi's nonattendance speaks volumes. A plausible inference is that by sidestepping the G20, Xi aims to diminish its significance, given its composition largely of U.S. allies. He likely views it as a potential obstacle to his aspirations of expanding influence, especially in regions like Africa.

Instead, Xi is championing alternative groups like the BRICS nations, which he believes can be more amenable to China's influence.

The recent invitation to six new countries, including those with strong ties to China like Egypt and Ethiopia, suggests that Xi wants the BRICS to rally behind China's geopolitical objectives.

Challenges and Miscalculations

While global leaders convene at the G20, Xi will be discussed among heads of nations like Venezuela and Zambia, both significantly indebted to China. This strategy unfolds at a time when Beijing is pulling away from the West.

However, this move might backfire. By vacating the influential platform of the G20, Xi has inadvertently granted President Joe Biden an open field. This allows Biden to forge stronger ties with key nations, as evidenced by a joint declaration with India pledging increased cooperation.

The G20 snub is particularly detrimental to the relationship with the host, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose backing is pivotal if Xi aims to reshape BRICS.

Further complicating the situation is Beijing's recent territorial assertions via a new map. This has not only irked India but also raised concerns across Asia.

An analysis from Capital Economics posits that BRICS might only sometimes emerge as a potent counter to the West. Disparities among its members could hamper its growth as a cohesive bloc.

While Xi views the world as a tug-of-war between China and the U.S., he might overlook a critical aspect. The emerging global landscape is polycentric, with various nations championing their own objectives.

By shunning the G20, Xi isn't just delineating his differences with the West but also risking alienation from countries he anticipates will align with him.