- Premier Li Qiang is expected to represent Beijing at summit.
- Meeting has been viewed as venue at which Xi may meet with Biden.
- Chinese sources not aware of reason for Xi’s expected absence.
NEW DELHI/BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to skip the upcoming G20 leaders’ summit in India, sources familiar with the matter in both countries confided to Reuters on Thursday.
However, according to two Indian officials, one diplomat based in China and one official working for the government of another G20 country, Premier Li Qiang is expected to represent Beijing at the moot scheduled to be held next week (September 9 to 10) in New Delhi.
Spokespersons for the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
The summit in India has been viewed as a venue at which Xi may meet with US President Joe Biden, who has confirmed his attendance, as the two superpowers seek to stabilise relations soured by a range of trade and geopolitical tensions.
Xi last met Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia last November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already announced that he will not be travelling to New Delhi and will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead.
One senior government official from host India told Reuters that “we are aware that the premier will come”, in place of Xi.
In China, two foreign diplomats and a government official from another G20 country said that Xi will likely not be travelling for the summit.
The sources in China, two of whom said they were informed by Chinese officials, said they were not aware of the reason for his expected absence.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Anticipation of a meeting between Xi and Biden has been fuelled by a stream of top US officials visiting Beijing in recent months, including a trip by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo earlier this week.
Another upcoming summit mooted for face-to-face talks between the two leaders is an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in San Francisco on November 12 to 18.
Xi, who secured a precedent-breaking third term as leader last October, has made few overseas trips since China abruptly dropped strict pandemic-induced border controls this year.
He did, however, attend a meeting with leaders of the BRICS group of major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – in South Africa last week.
Several G20 ministerial meetings in India ahead of the summit have been contentious as Russia and China together opposed joint statements which included paragraphs condemning Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine last year.
Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rare conversation on the sidelines of the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg and discussed reducing tensions in the bilateral relationship that soured after clashes along their Himalayan frontier in 2020 left 24 soldiers dead.