Chinese Premier Li Qiang is likely to attend the ASEAN and G20 summits next week instead of President Xi Jinping, according to official sources.
Two Indian officials, plus a diplomat based in China and an official working for another G20 country said Premier Li Qiang is expected to represent Beijing at the September 9-10 meeting in New Delhi.
Li is also likely to attend a summit of East and Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 5-7, according to a report from Kyodo.
Spokespersons for the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
Biden due to attend the G20 summit in Delhi
The summit in India had 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 said 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.
No reason given
Two of these three sources in China said they were informed by Chinese officials, but they were not aware of the reason for Xi’s expected absence.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
However, officials in India and many ASEAN nations are upset about China’s expansionist land claims. Both Delhi and Kuala Lumpur have protested after a newly published map included disputed areas within China’s borders.
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 (APEC) Leaders Meeting in San Francisco on November 12-18.
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 from 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.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard