In a surprising move, Chinese President Xi Jinping has chosen to bypass the G20 Summit hosted in New Delhi, leaving experts speculating about the underlying reasons for this decision. While tensions between China and India have strained relations, some argue that Xi’s absence may be more closely linked to pressing domestic issues within China.
Xi, who once experienced the hardships of manual labor during China’s Cultural Revolution, faces unprecedented challenges as the nation’s paramount leader. His conspicuous absence from the G20 Summit has raised eyebrows and prompted analysis.
While the China-India relationship has indeed been frosty since the border clashes in May 2020, the Chinese government has expressed its willingness to cooperate for the success of the global event. Nevertheless, Xi may be reluctant to share the stage with a “tough crowd” at the G20, with several member countries adopting increasingly critical stances towards China in recent years.
Some experts suggest that Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the India-hosted G20 event could be attributed to mounting troubles within China itself. His focus on domestic matters, particularly national security, has made him less inclined to travel abroad. Instead, foreign leaders are encouraged to visit China.
Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, points out that this security-centric approach has strained China’s diplomatic ties and hindered its economic revival, which is currently in a precarious state. China’s economy is grappling with multiple challenges, including reduced household spending, decreased factory output, and sluggish business investments. Exports have also taken a hit.
Moreover, China’s economic vulnerability is exacerbated by a housing crisis, where property prices are plummeting, and major developers are facing bankruptcy. The country’s heavy reliance on the property sector, coupled with its strict COVID-19 policies, has hindered economic growth and resulted in a surge in debt levels. China’s debt-to-GDP ratio stood at a record 279 percent in the first quarter of 2023.
Adding to Xi’s concerns, international companies that once relied heavily on China for manufacturing are diversifying their operations through strategies like “China+1.” Countries like India are reaping the benefits, as brands like Apple, Tesla, Nike, and others move some of their production and supply chains away from China.
Xi’s grip on power in China has tightened over the years, but there have been notable purges within the country’s leadership. High-ranking military officers and government officials have been removed from their positions, causing uncertainty within the political landscape. This upheaval has not gone unnoticed by Communist Party elders, who have reprimanded Xi for his policy decisions.
The economic downturn and political turbulence have raised concerns among these party elders, who fear losing public support, potentially jeopardizing the Communist Party’s rule. China’s economic slowdown has also impacted its global reputation, with Chinese companies seeking to relocate outside the country.
In this complex landscape of economic, military, and political challenges, President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the G20 summit in India appears increasingly understandable. His absence reflects not only China’s strained relationship with India but also the pressing issues he faces on the home front.