New Delhi, September 8, 2023 – The G20 summit convened in New Delhi on Friday, bringing together leaders from around the world. However, the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping raised questions about the unity and relevance of the bloc. The G20, originally formed during the 2008 financial crisis, aimed to manage the global economy, but consensus among its members has become increasingly elusive in recent years.
Several leaders had already arrived in New Delhi, where preparations were in full swing to address pressing issues such as the Ukraine conflict, climate change, and global governance. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had portrayed the summit as a significant moment for India on the global stage, showcasing the country’s influence and prestige.
However, Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the meeting and send Premier Li Qiang in his place cast a shadow over these ambitions. While no official reason was given for Xi’s absence, it is widely believed to be related to the ongoing China-India border dispute and China’s efforts to shape international groupings like the G20 to align more with its interests.
As the summit unfolds, Prime Minister Modi has taken a prominent role in the proceedings, with his image adorning numerous G20 billboards and posters throughout Delhi. The failure of G20 leaders to reach an agreement on a joint summit statement, typically a routine diplomatic matter, could potentially be seen as an embarrassment for India and Modi’s efforts to unite developing and wealthier member countries.
Despite the challenges, Modi seems poised to make progress in expanding the G20 by including the African Union as a permanent member, forming a potential “G21.” However, issues such as the Ukraine conflict and funding for climate change mitigation remain contentious topics.
Diplomacy and accusations of war crimes have also kept Russian leader Vladimir Putin away from the summit, as Moscow continues to seek allies to temper international condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticized Putin’s absence, stating that Putin’s actions isolated him while the rest of the G20 worked together to address the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis.
Heading to the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden expressed confidence that the meeting would still “deliver” despite concerns that a trade war between the world’s two largest economies could escalate. Rumors circulated about China potentially banning Apple’s iPhone, but U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan deferred questions about these rumors to Beijing.
Many G20 leaders are concerned that their economies may become collateral damage as trade tensions between the United States and China intensify. Economists note that U.S. restrictions on sensitive technology transfers to China have contributed to a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. Additionally, China faces structural challenges such as a shrinking labor force, slower productivity, and an overheated real estate market.
Speaking in Delhi, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen emphasized the global implications of a Chinese economic slowdown and stated that China has the policy flexibility to address these challenges.
As the G20 summit unfolds in New Delhi, the world watches with anticipation, hoping for meaningful progress on pressing global issues despite the absence of key leaders and lingering divisions among member nations.