The absence of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, from a scheduled speech at a crucial multilateral business forum during the Brics summit in South Africa has ignited a whirlwind of conjecture and intrigue. The unexpected deviation from protocol raised eyebrows and led to fervent speculation about the rationale behind his absence. Xi, who arrived in Johannesburg on Monday for the summit, refrained from delivering the anticipated address, and instead, his speech was articulated by his commerce minister, Wang Wentao.
The sudden shift in Xi’s engagement pattern has triggered rampant conjecture within the realm of China observers. While Xi’s unanticipated withdrawal from the business forum remains unexplained, various hypotheses have emerged to fill the information void. Some experts have posited that the absence may be rooted in unforeseen circumstances or even a temporary ailment, although concrete answers remain elusive.
Bill Bishop, the authoritative voice behind the newsletter “Sinocism” focused on Chinese affairs, highlighted the peculiarity of Xi’s public appearances this month, noting a conspicuous lull. He further remarked that Xi’s last-minute decision to bypass the business forum added to the intrigue, emphasizing that the dearth of reliable information from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would inevitably lead to the propagation of conjectures.
The China Global South Project underscored the rarity of Xi’s absence from meticulously orchestrated events such as the Brics summit, reflecting its exceptional nature. The unexplained withdrawal also paralleled a similar absence by former foreign minister Qin Gang, who has maintained a low profile in recent months and was absent from the preceding foreign ministers Brics meeting.
While the reasoning behind Xi’s absence remains obscured, the speech delivered by Wang Wentao contained thinly veiled condemnations directed at an unnamed nation, casting aspersions on its pursuit of hegemony and its endeavors to stifle emerging markets and developing countries. Wang’s articulation on Xi’s behalf alluded to the dynamics of global power play, capturing the challenges faced by those who endeavor to attain progress.
As the Brics summit unfolded, leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa contemplated the expansion of the coalition, aiming to enhance its representation and influence. The gathering of nations representing 40% of the global population and a quarter of the world’s GDP underscored the bloc’s significance in shaping global dynamics. Yet, Xi’s conspicuous absence has become the focal point of this gathering, prompting discussions about China’s trajectory and global role within the Brics framework.