The G20 and India’s presidency provide a platform for international cooperation and economic discussions, offering hope for constructive dialogues in these turbulent times
Xi Jinping’s absence from the upcoming G20 summit in New Delhi has raised concerns amidst the backdrop of worsening Sino-Indian relations. Instead of President Xi, Chinese Premier Li Qiang will represent Beijing at the conference, prompting disappointment from US President Joe Biden, who remarked, “I am disappointed… but I am going to get to see him,” without specifying a meeting date.
This marks a departure from the initial expectation that Xi Jinping would attend the New Delhi conference, as announced by the Chinese President himself. However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry remained unable to confirm his attendance.
Meanwhile, preparations for the summit in New Delhi continue apace, even as sources suggest that Xi Jinping has no intention of participating in this year’s gathering. The last meeting between the leaders of the world’s two superpowers occurred at a conference in Indonesia the previous year.
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The Group of Twenty (G20) stands as the foremost platform for international economic collaboration, serving a pivotal role in molding and fortifying the global framework and governance for critical international economic matters.
India has assumed the Presidency of the G20, a position it will hold from December 1, 2022, through November 30, 2023.
Biden-Xi meeting anticipated for November
A potential meeting between Biden and Xi Jinping looms on the horizon for November. Despite not crossing paths at the G20 summit, they may have an opportunity to convene at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in San Francisco, USA. The ongoing deterioration of relations between the US and China over the past year adds significance to this potential meeting. There is concern that Xi Jinping might skip the G20 summit after this. In a similar timeframe last November, the two leaders, Biden and Xi Jinping, met on the Indonesian island of Bali.
The root causes of the Sino-India border dispute
The backdrop to the current China-India border dispute is one of deteriorating relations between the two nations. This dispute centers around their contested border in the Himalayan region, and recent developments have added fuel to the fire. Beijing, for instance, released a map last week, marking Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai China Plateau as Chinese territory, which India vehemently protested.
To understand this dispute’s historical context, one can harken back to the 1962 Sino-Indian War, which primarily revolved around the disputed Aksai Chin region along their shared borders. This conflict traces its roots to the aftermath of India’s partition in 1947, a period coinciding with the onset of the Cold War, which ushered in a new era of global diplomacy. This partition left a series of border disputes in the Indian subcontinent where India, Pakistan, and China converged. Beijing’s claim to certain border areas with India intensified after it annexed Tibet in 1950, sparking disputes at multiple points along the Himalayan borders, including those involving Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim.
In the contemporary context, India and China are engaged in efforts to resolve lingering border disputes in Eastern Ladakh, particularly concerning patrolling rights in the Depsang plains. Military-level talks have been held, hinting at the need for further rounds to make substantial progress. Key issues include the Chinese occupation of a feature that restricts Indian troop movement and the establishment of Chinese tents at another location. These negotiations have proven challenging, marked by mutual caution due to lingering distrust stemming from clashes in 2020. The overarching goal of these talks is to establish clear patrolling boundaries and restore the status quo ante as of May 2020.
Conflict between China and the United States
The ongoing Sino-U.S. conflict escalated a few days ago when a Chinese spy balloon appeared in the skies over the United States, prompting the US to respond by shooting it down. This incident further strained bilateral relations, which have already been marred by a multitude of disagreements. These contentious issues encompass human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, territorial disputes concerning Taiwan and the South China Sea, as well as Beijing’s pursuit of global dominance.
In an attempt to mend the fractured relationship, several high-ranking US officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and US Special Envoy for Climate Action John Kerry, have recently visited China.
Meanwhile, Beijing is actively asserting itself as a global development leader while seeking alternatives to the Washington-led world order. This shift in global dynamics was evident during the recent BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Xi Jinping criticized Western hegemony. The summit also called on developing countries to break free from the vestiges of colonialism. Originally composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, BRICS welcomed six more countries into its fold at the Johannesburg conference, including Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Their formal membership will commence on January 1, marking a significant diplomatic triumph for Beijing.
“The US-China relationship is caught in a negative feedback loop,” observed Jacob Stokes, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former official from the Obama era. He noted the volatility of the situation, even though there is no imminent sign of armed conflict. Both the US intelligence community and Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns have stated that China does not desire a military confrontation over Taiwan, especially after witnessing US and allied support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Both countries remain each other’s top trading partners and have affirmed their mutual disinterest in sparking a new Cold War.
As the world watches with bated breath, the potential meeting between President Biden and Xi Jinping in November holds the promise of thawing relations amidst growing tensions. Meanwhile, the Sino-India border dispute continues to add complexity to the regional landscape, and the Sino-U.S. conflict simmers, reflecting the ever-evolving dynamics of global politics. Amidst these challenges, the G20 and India’s presidency provide a platform for international cooperation and economic discussions, offering hope for constructive dialogues in these turbulent times.