President Joe Biden said on Sunday that he’s “disappointed” Chinese leader Xi Jinping will skip the G20 summit in India, amid unconfirmed reports that Beijing will likely send its premier to the summit on Mr. Xi’s behalf.
Reuters reported last week that Chinese Premier Li Qiang will likely take Mr. Xi’s place at the summit, citing Indian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to unauthorized status to speak to the media.
Responding to a question from a reporter in Delaware, Mr. Biden was asked about Mr. Xi’s possible absence at the summit, to which he responded, “I am disappointed, but I am going to get to see him.”
By Monday afternoon, the Chinese Foreign Ministry officially confirmed that Mr. Li would be attending the two-day summit instead of Mr. Xi.
Mr. Biden is set to travel to India from Sept. 7 to Sept. 10 for the G20 summit in India’s capital, New Delhi, where leaders of the world’s major economies will gather to discuss joint efforts to tackle global issues.
The U.S. president did not specify when his next meeting with China’s leader might be. The two last met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Nov. 14, 2022.
At a trilateral summit between the United States, Japan, and South Korea at Camp David on Aug. 18, Mr. Biden said that he anticipated meeting with Mr. Xi this fall.
“I expect and hope to follow up on our conversation in Bali this fall. That’s my expectation,” he told reporters.
According to Indian news reports, India’s government has not heard from Beijing about Mr. Xi’s absence from the summit. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has also refused to comment on the matter.
“Of the Chinese leaders attending the G20 summit, I have nothing to offer at the moment,” Mr. Wang told reporters last week.
Indian PM Criticizes China’s ‘Debt Trap’
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to have taken an indirect jab at Beijing during a recent interview with Business Today when he spoke about forces seeking to exploit other countries’ debt crises.
“It is the duty of each country to guard itself from financial indiscipline, but at the same time, there are forces that have sought to take undue advantage by catalyzing debt crises. These forces have capitalized on the helplessness of other countries and led them into debt traps,” he said.
Mr. Modi added that since 2021, the G20 countries have begun to address the debt crisis of low- and middle-income countries, many of which are struggling because of unsustainable debts.
Beijing has faced criticisms for its lending practices to smaller nations, particularly through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which had been viewed as a tool for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to seize control of strategic assets in emerging countries.
According to estimates by authoritative organizations such as the World Bank, the Chinese regime has provided loans totaling approximately $240 billion to 22 developing countries from 2008 to 2021.
But in recent years, some countries have struggled to repay loans for infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. In addition, approximately 60 percent of low-income nations and 30 percent of emerging market economies are either experiencing or are at risk of debt distress.
Relations between India and China have been strained since the 2020 confrontation between their troops on a disputed Himalayan border, which left at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead.
The 2020 conflict has led to a heavy military buildup on both sides of the disputed border. India has said that restoring normalcy with China’s CCP would be “impossible” should the border situation remain unresolved.
Justin Zhang and Olivia Li contributed to this report.
UPDATE: This article has been updated with a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.