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China Snubs India With Xi’s Likely G-20 Absence

Missing the summit is part of Beijing’s efforts to undermine Western dominance on the world stage.

An illustration of Alexandra Sharp, World Brief newsletter writer
An illustration of Alexandra Sharp, World Brief newsletter writer
Alexandra Sharp
By , the World Brief writer at Foreign Policy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the G-20 leaders’ summit in Japan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the G-20 leaders’ summit in Japan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the G-20 leaders’ summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool/Getty Images

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Chinese President Xi Jinping’s likely decision to skip the upcoming G-20 summit in India, North Korea’s simulated nuclear attack on South Korea, and a deadly fire in South Africa.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Chinese President Xi Jinping’s likely decision to skip the upcoming G-20 summit in India, North Korea’s simulated nuclear attack on South Korea, and a deadly fire in South Africa.


Playing Hooky

Next weekend’s G-20 summit in New Delhi will likely sport a noticeably empty chair. Chinese officials hinted on Thursday that President Xi Jinping will not attend the key geopolitical conference. Instead, Chinese Premier Li Qiang will represent Beijing in his stead. If that happens, it would be the first time Xi has forgone the event since coming to power in 2013.

Attending the G-20 leaders’ summit has always been a key aspect of Beijing’s foreign-policy strategy. Past summits have included strategic dialogues between Xi and his top competitors, including talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during last November’s G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

It is unclear exactly why Xi plans to miss next weekend’s gathering. Apart from Xi, the only other G-20 leader to RSVP “no” has been Russian President Vladimir Putin. But regional experts suspect that ditching this year’s G-20 is another way for the Chinese president to further Beijing’s pivot away from Western-led institutions—as well as to take a not-so-subtle dig at rival India, which is proudly hosting the event.

Last week, China stole the show at the Johannesburg-hosted BRICS summit—a bloc consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. There, Beijing successfully advocated for the bloc’s expansion to include six new member countries as a means of cementing the grouping as an alternative to Western-dominated clubs such as the G-20. Missing the G-20 itself will continue that strategy. The economic bloc has long been dominated by the United States and Washington’s top allies, including host India. Skipping the summit will thereby undermine New Delhi’s efforts to establish itself as a global leader.

Relations between China and India are fraught. Xi and Modi held a rare face-to-face dialogue on the sidelines of the BRICS summit last week to discuss easing tensions along their shared border. In 2020, violent clashes between their troops left at least 20 Indian forces dead, and control over the 2,100-mile Line of Actual Control continues to spur heated disagreement. However, officials on both sides appeared to signal that hope was on the horizon after Xi and Modi agreed to hasten negotiations over the disputed land.

That all changed on Wednesday, when China released a new map showing the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin plateau as under Chinese sovereignty. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar immediately refuted Beijing’s territorial claims, calling the map “absurd.” Meanwhile, Chinese officials warned India not to “overreact.” But news that Xi plans to miss the G-20 summit suggests China may not be as interested in playing nicely with India as last week’s talks seemed to promise.


Today’s Most Read


What We’re Following

Scorched-earth strategy. North Korea on Wednesday launched a simulated “scorched-earth” attack on Seoul following a series of U.S.-South Korean military training exercises this month. The strike detailed how Pyongyang would use nuclear weapons to assault Seoul before occupying the country’s territory. North Korea also fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday, mere hours after U.S. forces deployed heavy bombers.

Joint Washington-Seoul air drills were part of an 11-day military exercise to counter growing North Korean and Chinese aggression in the region. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has long denounced the exercises as a rehearsal for war. In response to the simulated attack, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned that Kim’s conduct poses “threats to peace and stability of not only our country, but of the region and international community, and cannot be tolerated.”

Deadly blaze in South Africa. A devastating fire killed more than 70 people in central Johannesburg on Thursday. The blaze demolished a five-story building housing hundreds of homeless individuals in the nation’s wealthiest city. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but the building was listed as a heritage site that was owned by the city but not regulated by local government.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa canceled a planned state address on Thursday to instead visit the site of the fire and its victims. He gave condolences to the families and called the incident a “great tragedy.” Authorities have criticized the city’s abundance of “hijacked buildings,” or structures abandoned by landlords and taken over by gangs, migrants, or other groups. Ramaphosa has not commented on whether local officials failed to meet basic safety regulations.

Chile’s search for justice. In light of Chile’s 50th anniversary of a military coup, Chilean President Gabriel Boric signed a presidential decree on Wednesday that enacts a national search plan to track down individuals who went missing during dictator Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year reign. “Justice has taken too long,” Boric said. “This is not a favor to the families. It is a duty to society as a whole to deliver the answers the country deserves and needs.”

Under the plan, the federal government will centralize and digitize case files and other records on the potential victims. It will also finance excavations into where victims are potentially buried, an effort that has battled a lack of funding for years. Nearly 1,500 people disappeared under Pinochet’s authoritarian rule. Only 307 individuals have been found and identified so far.


Odds and Ends

You won’t bee-lieve it. Beekeepers across Canada were called to duty on Wednesday after 5 million bees escaped their wooden boxes in Burlington, Ontario. Regional police warned locals to avoid the two-lane road where the bees made their daring escape and urged residents to keep their windows closed. “None of the police or first responders would get out of their vehicles, so you had all of these beekeepers walking around in full suits, and everyone else staying a safe distance away,” said beekeeper Mike Barber. Talk about a sting operation.

Alexandra Sharp is the World Brief writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @AlexandraSSharp

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