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China’s President Xi is set to miss the G20 summit

David Brancaccio, Jennifer Pak, Alex Schroeder, and Ariana Rosas Sep 8, 2023
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Noel Celis-Pool/Getty Images

China’s President Xi is set to miss the G20 summit

David Brancaccio, Jennifer Pak, Alex Schroeder, and Ariana Rosas Sep 8, 2023
Heard on:
Noel Celis-Pool/Getty Images
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The summit of the Group of 20 major world economies is happening in New Delhi, India, this weekend. President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will be in attendance, along with leaders from Britain, Canada, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Who won’t be at the G20 summit? Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. This could have ramifications for these countries’ relations with the U.S., their relations with lower-income countries and more. To get some background and insight into these events, “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio spoke with Marketplace’s China correspondent, Jennifer Pak in Shanghai. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

David Brancaccio: Let’s focus on China’s President Xi. He leads the world’s second-largest economy. This is the first time China’s president is set to miss a G20 summit since, I think, 2008. What’s the explanation?

Jennifer Pak: We don’t have one. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry has just announced that China’s No. 2, Premier Li Qiang, will be attending the G20 instead.

Brancaccio: It does stick out, though — President Xi did go to the recent BRICS summit, the economic group that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Any, I don’t know, guesses about why President Xi is skipping this one?

Pak: Well, these are just guesses, but some say maybe China’s economy is in such bad shape that President Xi has to focus more on that. Others say it could be geopolitical: China sees a new world order. It’s [focused on] developing nations, and the West is less important. Maybe China has a problem with the host of the G20, India, because the two countries have a dispute over the border, and that spilled into the tech sphere. Although China’s Foreign Ministry has outright refuted this, saying China is happy for India to host and that it sees the G20 as a very important economic forum.

Brancaccio: Very important, but not quite important enough for the president to show up. But, Jennifer, tell me more about why this would be significant if Xi doesn’t go.

Pak: Well, for two reasons. First, bilaterally, for the U.S. it means that President Biden won’t really have a chance to bump into President Xi Jinping, even though the two were not meant to meet one on one. On a global scale it matters because the goal of the G20 summit is to have better international economic cooperation. So China needs to be a part of that.

Brancaccio: I know, but the thing is that under China’s President Xi, key economic data sets — like, it would be interesting to know about youth unemployment or consumer confidence. Those surveys don’t come out anymore in China.

Pak: That’s right, and this comes at a time when Chinese officials say they want more foreign investment. But in order for that to happen, you need transparency and information — information you are getting a lot less of either officially or through events at the G20.

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