Chinese President Xi Jinping, shown at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 24, won't be attending this week's G20 gathering in India, Beijing confirmed Monday. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping won't attend this week's Group of 20 summit in India with Premier Li Qiang appearing in his place, a government official said Monday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning indicated in a press briefing that Xi will miss a G20 summit for the first time since becoming the nation's leader in 2012.
"As has been announced just now, Premier Li Qiang will lead a delegation to the New Delhi G20 Summit in India," she said in response to a direct question about Xi's attendance.
"During this year's G20 Summit, Premier Li Qiang will share China's views and propositions on G20 cooperation, and promote greater solidarity and cooperation among G20 countries and joint response to global economic and development challenges," she added, without giving a specific reason for Xi's absence.
The announcement comes after the United States had expressed hopes that Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden would be able to meet one-on-one on the sidelines of the summit, which will be held Saturday and Sunday.
The two leaders met at last year's G20 summit in Indonesia.
Biden on Sunday expressed disappointment that Xi will not be in attendance at the gathering.
"I am disappointed... but I am going to get to see him," he told reporters in Rehoboth Beach, Del., after leaving church services.
The latest gathering comes amid an uptick in communications between the world's two largest economies.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visited China last week, becoming the fourth high-level U.S. official to make a trip there this year, following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA Director Bill Burns.
Xi, meanwhile, has in recent weeks attempted to position China as an alternative to the world economic order dominated by Washington and the other Western nations.
At last month's BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the Chinese leader praised an invitation to oil-producing giant Saudi Arabia and Iran to join the organization, which currently includes Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa.
"This membership expansion is historic," he said. "It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation for the broader developing world."