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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Xi’s Absence from G20 Summit: Implications for China-India Relations

In an unexpected development, Chinese President Xi Jinping has opted to skip this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in India. Premier Li Qiang will stand in for President Xi at the September 9-10 gathering, as conveyed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a succinct announcement on its official website.

A Chill in Bilateral Relations

The relationship between China and India has noticeably cooled, primarily due to the persistent disputes along their shared border. Three years ago, these tensions escalated into a violent clash in the Ladakh region, resulting in the tragic loss of 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers. This incident evolved into a protracted standoff in the challenging terrain, with both sides deploying tens of thousands of military personnel, along with heavy artillery, tanks, and fighter jets.

Beyond Border Disputes

The friction between these two Asian giants extends beyond border conflicts. Trade disputes have emerged as a prominent issue, exacerbated by India’s deepening strategic ties with China’s principal rival, the United States. Notably, both India and China have expelled each other’s journalists, further straining diplomatic relations.

Another factor intensifying the rivalry is India’s recent overtaking of China as the world’s most populous nation. Additionally, these nations compete in critical sectors such as technology, space exploration, and global trade.

Silence Surrounding Xi’s Absence

When queried about President Xi’s absence from the summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning declined to provide a direct response. However, she emphasized the G20’s significance as a major platform for international economic cooperation. Mao stressed China’s unwavering commitment to this forum’s activities.

Premier Li Qiang’s role at the summit will involve articulating China’s viewpoints and proposals for G20 cooperation. His mission is to bolster unity and collaboration within the G20, addressing global economic and developmental challenges collectively. China is eager to collaborate with all participating parties to ensure the summit’s success and to contribute positively to global economic stability and sustainable development.

Efforts to Stabilize the Border

Despite the tensions, Chinese and Indian military commanders convened recently and pledged to “maintain the peace and tranquility” along their disputed border. This gesture reflects a joint effort by both sides to stabilize the situation.

The Line of Actual Control demarcates Chinese- and Indian-held territories, spanning from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, a region entirely claimed by China. The historical backdrop includes a war between India and China in 1962. It is crucial to note that this line defines areas of physical control, not territorial claims.

India asserts that the de facto border stretches over 3,488 kilometers, while China argues for a considerably shorter figure. China’s claims extend to approximately 90,000 square kilometers of territory in India’s northeast, encompassing Arunachal Pradesh, which has a predominantly Buddhist population. On the other hand, India contends that China occupies 38,000 square kilometers of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau, a region considered part of Ladakh, where the current faceoff persists.

Global Implications

President Xi’s decision to skip the G20 summit carries global implications, particularly concerning China-India relations and potential interactions with U.S. President Joe Biden. Despite recent visits by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other officials to Beijing, China-U.S. relations remain historically strained.

Xi Jinping, who has amassed substantial domestic authority, has adopted a progressively assertive stance on China’s territorial interests. This assertiveness extends to the South China Sea and to self-governing Taiwan, where China has made forceful annexation threats.

Simultaneously, China grapples with economic recovery following stringent COVID-19 control measures. Foreign businesses have voiced concerns about the increasingly challenging investment and trade environment in China.

Conclusion

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 summit in India underscores the sustained chill in China-India relations, stemming from border disputes, trade frictions, and geopolitical rivalries. His non-participation also eliminates the prospect of significant interactions, emphasizing the intricacies of global diplomacy amid shifting power dynamics.

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