China takes rivalry to G20summit

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China takes rivalry to G20summit

Sunday, 10 September 2023 | Makhan Saikia

China takes rivalry to G20summit

By now, China’s reticence has generated a lot of interpretations in global media and in diplomatic circles. For Xi, it is an occasion to showcase that China is having its unique world view wherein engagement rules are quite different from what the others think. But his absence in the Delhi Summit is very unique because since his coming to power, he has never missed any G20 summit in any part of the world.

The latest G20 summit in Delhi once again highlights how India and China are escalating their differences to new heights. Xi Jinping is purely an ambitious and aggressive statesman. Since coming to power in 2012, he has been clearly and distinctly demonstrating his intentions.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has his own agenda to take India to the global stage despite all odds both at home and in his neighbourhood. Equally important and critical is that both Delhi and Beijing are competing for leadership positions at all international institutions. The only difference playing out in the open is that, unlike China, India is not challenging US leadership on the global stage.

On the other hand, China has a one-point agenda to dethrone America from all international institutions. And to establish its own model of global governance based on Chinese characteristics. The point Beijing (Xi) is making is why we should listen to Washington, when China has its own perspective that must be considered by the rest of the world. Thus, Xi’s new China is charting its own course, aiming to reorient the geopolitical order in the coming years. In this great power game, if India comes in between, China will have no way, but to handle its emerging global neighbour.

When the world’s most powerful nations are meeting this weekend in Delhi, the two notable absentees are only Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation and Xi. Both have their own reasons for not coming to attend the most talked about G-20 Summit. For Putin, he has been facing an international arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for atrocities carried out in Ukraine during the course of the current conflict that began in February 2021. Apart from this, he is fast encountering international isolation for his extreme aggression against his neighbour and looking for support from friends and allies all over the world.

By now, China’s reticence has generated a lot of interpretations in global media and in diplomatic circles. For Xi, it is an occasion to showcase that China is having its unique world view wherein engagement rules are quite different from what the others think. But his absence in the Delhi Summit is very unique because since his coming to power, he has never missed any G20 summit in any part of the world. In fact, no proper explanation has been given by Beijing for Xi skipping the landmark event.

However, international observers and China watchers say that his absence indicates predominantly China’s displeasure with the West, especially the US. Secondly, the Chinese strongman clearly wants to avoid isolation from the majority of the Western leaders as Putin is also not coming to the summit.

Thirdly, China’s long boundary dispute with India, the host country, and so far, both the neighbours not arriving at any credible solution to this sticky issue may be one reason for his intriguing decision of absence in the meet. Also, China views India as a member of the anti-China camp headed by the US. So in that case why Xi will attend a global event that projects India as a superpower and most of the western leaders are taking a front seat, most importantly US President Joe Biden.

Fourthly, China’s long rivalry with the US and complete distrust over the existing international liberal order, this kind of a no-show was highly likely from Xi.

Fifthly, China has started viewing G20 as another international forum that supports Washinton’s and its ally’s agenda at the most.

Sixthly, George Magnus, an economist who is with the China Centre at Oxford University, says: “There may be an element of deliberate snub to India but could also be a statement that there are different governance structures Xi Jinping thinks are important and the G20, may not be one of them. Xi may have wanted to make an example of the Indian G20.”

Yes, there could be a high probability that Xi might be thinking on these lines.

As economic globalisation unfolds in full cycle, India and China seem to be heading more towards collision than convergence. But there was a time when both the bordering nations were offering huge benefits to their partnering countries without upsetting the regional power balance. Today, the world is different and geopolitical dynamics are changing very fast.

To many international observers India-China rivalry and competition is going to grow at any cost. Again, China’s new Premier Li Qiang has already arrived in Delhi to attend the summit who is completely new to the entire scenario of India-China conflict. And this is his second international test after just attending the East Asia Summit in Jakarta this week. And till date, there has been no public statement that Li and Prime Minister Modi may have a bilateral engagement on the sidelines of the meet. In fact, the strange thing is that for more than a year China has not been appointing a permanent ambassador in New Delhi. This shows how Beijing is trying to sideline Delhi on the diplomatic front but always wanted to engage on the trade front.

Finally, this G20 will certainly enhance India’s global ambitions and particularly Prime Minister Modi’s stature all around the world. Though he has been facing sharp criticisms from the opposition INDIA alliance in the run up to the 2024 General Election, he has already established a distinct style of leadership, delivery and oratory during his nearly a decade of power at the Centre. It’s clear that the battle for him in this election is simply Modi vs Modi as the buzzword goes around in the national and international media.

The INDIA alliance is too crowded and there each of the top leaders have a prime ministerial ambition. More importantly, these opposition leaders face stiff competition back home with their largest ally i.e. Congress. And some of them like the Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), DMK, CPI(M), Nationalist Congress Party, JD(U) have been sworn enemies of the Congress since their birth though they quite often form opportunistic alliances with the latter on many occasions. But this time, no single party will take any chance as it is the question of becoming Prime Minister of India (though it may certainly never happen).

Even some of them might choose to become a Charan Singh or Chandra Shekhar of the recent past, still they won’t cede their space to the much-awaited Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi. Frankly speaking, whether it’s Bharat Jodo or any other initiative that he has undertaken so far, this single agenda has always remained anti-Modi centric. This has been the biggest mistake on his part and Prime Minister Modi being a global statesman, such a vilifying agenda might not serve any purpose for the poor Gandhi.

This G20 will be a new feather in the cap of Prime Minister Modi. His leadership and appeal has reached to all corners of the world and to all Indians especially in the remotest parts of the country. However China and Russia’s absence has slightly dampened the event. But then the presence of Biden, Sunak, Macron and the rest will certainly enhance India’s event and its global ratings in the days to come.

Sadly, the strange bedfellows at INDIA camp should have offered a helping hand to the current government so as to project a concerted effort of the entire nation instead of cribbing and complaining about the event from day one. It does not matter, this G20 is a Modi show and will always be remembered as a grand fiesta in the annals of modern Indian history.

(The writer is currently president of the Global Research Foundation)  

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