Biden Snags Spotlight at G20 Summit in Absence of Xi and Putin

Biden Snags Spotlight at G20 Summit in Absence of Xi and Putin
President Joe Biden talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in Delhi before the start of the G20 conference. (G20) 

The Lede: The G20 summit hosted in New Delhi this weekend saw strides in U.S. and Western agendas as President Joe Biden attracted attention in the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Various announcements at the meeting are seen as efforts to counter Chinese influence in global development and finance.  

What We Know:

  • Upon arrival on Friday night, Biden met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and issued a joint statement on future plans for bilateral cooperation in military, trade, green transition, and health fields.
  • On Saturday, Biden’s team announced a new economic corridor from India through the Middle East to Europe under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII). The project includes cooperation across Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel, between which the U.S. has been working on normalizing relations.
  • The U.S. also carried forward a proposal on reforms and expansion in the lending capacity of multilateral development banks, particularly the World Bank as well as the International Monetary Fund, as an alternative to China’s lending regime to the developing world.
  • This year's G20 declaration omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It included language that was amenable to all members emphasizing that countries should “refrain from action against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state.” It also mentions the “full, timely and effective implementation” of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and references a “just and durable peace in Ukraine.”
  • Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is also reported to have reiterated her country’s intention to withdraw from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.
  • The G20 summit also concluded with the admission of the African Union as a permanent member of the group and the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance among India, the U.S., and other countries to accelerate the shift to net zero emission targets by promoting plant and animal waste biofuels.
  • China’s delegation voiced opposition to the U.S. holding the presidency of the G20 in 2026.

The Background: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence has been seen as a snub of Modi due to recent disagreements on border issues and India’s role as host to the G20. The Middle East to India rail and port network project has been in discussions since 2021 at the I2U2 forum. In 2020, the Harvard Business Review estimated that China was the world's largest official creditor with loans reaching $1.5 trillion extended to more than 150 countries. This was more than the World Bank, the IMF, or all OECD creditor governments combined. The last G20 summit conclusions in Bali mention “aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”

Likely Outcomes:

  • The Middle East to India rail and port network project and the reforms to the World Bank and IMF are likely responses to China’s Belt and Road Initiative on global infrastructure. Biden is essentially taking the opportunity to offer the U.S. as an alternative partner and investor for developing countries at the G20. These efforts will expand and become more concrete in implementation in the near future with the rising wariness of risk in engagement with China.
  • The absence of the Chinese and Russian leaders may signal a de-prioritization of the G20 and other intergovernmental bodies that they see as being Western-led or leaning in the near term. The two countries may be looking toward groups outside of Western influence including BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
  • While the two sides of the diverging spheres of geopolitics vie for influence in various regions, developing countries, many of which are represented in the G20 and other groups like ASEAN, may expect continued efforts by the U.S. and China to court favor with offers of development, investment, and security cooperation among other areas. Immediately after the G20 summit, Biden departed for Vietnam to shore up ties with the rising Southeast Asian nation.


“The G20 members should act as partners in promoting global economic recovery through effectively strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination ... “[and] provide impetus for world economic growth…The G20 members should resolutely promote economic globalisation, jointly maintain the stability and smoothness of industrial and supply chains…The G20 needs unity instead of division, cooperation instead of confrontation, and inclusion instead of exclusion.” – Li Qiang, Premier of China

"Tensions will always be there because countries compete with each other for trade. There have been disputes between nations and we have to live with that, but we need to reduce friction. If you look globally, the economic powers move to take their right place and smaller countries also need to be included in the agenda. That's why G20 had the world 'inclusion,' to ensure no one is left behind. It's not an exclusive club where the big boys will be talking to each other and taking decisions among themselves." – Ihsan Buhulaiga, economist of the Saudi Arabian official G20 Summit delegation

“Some have speculated that China’s absence indicates that it is giving up on the G20, that is building an alternative world order, that it will privilege groupings like the BRICS.” – Jon Finer, U.S. deputy national security adviser

Good Reads:

At the G20, Biden joins forces with India and the Middle East, sidelining China (NPR)

With China in mind, G20 agrees to boost lending at India summit (Nikkei)

Biden takes advantage of Putin and Xi’s absence on G20’s first day (Politico)

U.S., India, Saudi, EU unveil a massive rail and ports deal on G20 sidelines (CNBC)

G20 summit: Chinese Premier Li Qiang urges group to be inclusive, not confrontational (SCMP)

West goes easy on Russia to save the G20 (Politico)

The African Union is joining the G20, a powerful acknowledgement of a continent of 1 billion people (ABC)

Biden, Modi, other leaders launch the Global Biofuels Alliance in clean energy effort (The Hill)

Italy’s Meloni meets with China’s Li as Italy’s continued participation in ‘Belt and Road’ in doubt (AP)

‘Bidenomics’ is going global. The world is skeptical. (Politico)

China opposed plans for U.S. to host G20 in 2026 (Nikkei)