Will the G20 be defined by absence?

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The Group of 20 leaders will meet in New Delhi later this week with a very notable absence: China’s Xi Jinping. China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that Premier Li Qiang would lead the delegation to India, without providing an explanation as to why Xi would not attend.

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  • Xi’s absence might make it difficult for countries to reach agreements that can stick. “The question for me and I think around that table is, can you really believe that what is agreed to at that table is going to be executed on if Xi is not in the room?” Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, told reporters on a call. He specifically mentioned the issue of debt restructuring, after an apparent breakthrough agreement between Zambia, China and other nations to restructure billions in loans over the summer.

  • President Biden conceded over the weekend that Xi’s decision to skip the meeting was a disappointment. His administration has been working to open up more lines of communication with Beijing to manage tensions, and the G20 meeting presented an opportunity for a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. The next opportunity would be the APEC summit in California, though China’s spy agency recently cast doubt on Xi’s attendance there too, according to the South China Morning Post.

  • There are questions about whether the G20 will produce an agreement on a communique that keeps in place language on Russia’s war in Ukraine used at the last summit in Bali. “We will attempt to bring a consensus amongst all parties, amongst all the G20 parties,” Amitabh Kant, the Indian official serving as the “sherpa” for the G20 meeting, told the Financial Times.

  • In addition to Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin is also not attending the summit after also skipping last year’s gathering in Bali.

  • Officials are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that monkeys don’t disrupt the annual gathering. This includes staging life-size cut-out photos of larger, more aggressive gray langur monkeys to scare real monkeys and hiring people to mimic the noises they make.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government spent $120 million to clean up the streets of New Delhi in preparation for the summit, and in the process demolished houses and street vendor stalls and destroyed homeless shelters, according to the Associated Press.

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