Skip to content
Xi has not left China for 21 months.  Covid may be only part of the reason.

 |  Today Headlines

Xi has not left China for 21 months. Covid may be only part of the reason.

| News Today | Yahoo news

When the presidents and prime ministers of the Group of 20 nations meet in Rome this weekend, Chinese leader Xi Jinping will not be among them. It is also not expected at climate talks next week in Glasgow, where China’s pledge to cut carbon emissions is seen as crucial to help mitigate the dire consequences of climate change. He has yet to meet President Biden in person and seems unlikely anytime soon.

Mr. Xi hasn’t left China for 21 months – and it continues.

The apparent reason for Xi’s lack of overseas travel is Covid-19, although officials have not explicitly said so. It is also a calculation that reinforced a deeper change in China’s foreign and domestic policy.

China, under Xi, no longer feels obligated to cooperate – or at least to be seen as cooperating – with the United States and its allies other than on its own terms.

Yet Xi’s recent absence from the world stage has complicated China’s ambition to position itself as an alternative to US leadership. And that coincided with, some say, contributing to a sharp deterioration in the country’s relations with much of the rest of the world.

Instead, China has turned in on itself, with officials concerned about protecting Mr. Xi’s health and internal political machinations, including a Communist Party convention next year where he is expected. claim five more years at the head of the country. As a result, face-to-face diplomacy is a lower priority than it was during Xi’s first years in office.

“There is currently a bunker mentality in China,” said Noah Barkin, who follows China for research firm Rhodium Group.

Xi’s withdrawal deprived him of the opportunity to personally counter the country’s continuing decline in reputation, even as he faces growing tensions over trade, Taiwan and other issues.

Less than a year ago, Xi made concessions to strike an investment deal with the European Union, partly to dull the United States, only to then see the deal scuttled by friction over political sanctions. Since then, Beijing has not accepted Xi’s invitation to meet with EU leaders in Europe this year.

“This eliminates or reduces the opportunities for engagement at the highest level of leadership,” Helena Legarda, senior analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said of Xi’s lack of travel. “From a diplomatic point of view,” she added, face-to-face meetings are “very often fundamental in trying to overcome remaining obstacles in any type of agreement or in trying to reduce tensions.”

Xi’s absence also dampened hopes that the Rome and Glasgow gatherings could make meaningful progress on two of the most pressing issues facing the world today: post-pandemic recovery and the fight against global warming.

President Biden, who participates in both, had sought to meet with Xi on the sidelines, in line with his strategy of working with China on issues such as climate change, even as the two countries clash. Instead, the two leaders agreed to hold a “virtual summit” before the end of the year, although no date has yet been announced.

“President Biden’s and President Xi’s inability to meet in person comes at a cost,” said Ryan Hass, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution who was director for China on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama.

Just five years ago, in a speech at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Xi introduced himself as the guardian of a multinational order, while President Donald J. Trump coached the states -United in an “America first” retreat. It is difficult to play that role while curled up inside China’s borders, which remain largely closed as protection against the pandemic.

“If Xi were to leave China, he would either have to adhere to Covid protocols upon his return to Beijing, or risk criticism for placing himself above the rules that apply to everyone,” Mr. Hass.

Xi’s government has not given up on diplomacy. China, along with Russia, played a leading role in negotiations with the Taliban after it returned to power in Afghanistan. Xi also held several conference calls with European leaders, including outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and, this week, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend the meetings in Rome, and Xi will log on and deliver what Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday would be an “important speech.”

While President Biden has spoken of forging an “alliance of democracies” to counter China’s challenge, Xi has sought to forge his own partnerships, including with Russia and developing countries, to oppose what he considers a Western cult.

“In terms of diplomacy with the developing world – most of the world – I think Xi Jinping’s lack of travel has not been a big drawback,” said Neil Thomas, analyst at the Eurasia Group. He noted Xi’s telephone diplomacy this week with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape.

“That’s a lot more speaking time than the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea has with Joe Biden,” Thomas said.

Yet Mr. Xi’s halt to international travel has been blatant, especially compared to the frantic pace he once maintained. The last time he left China was in January 2020, during a visit to Myanmar just days before ordering the lockdown of Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus emerged.

Mr. Xi also did not host many foreign officials. In the weeks following the lockdown, he met with the director of the World Health Organization and the leaders of Cambodia and Mongolia, but his last known meeting with a foreign official was in Beijing in March 2020, with President Arif Alvi of Pakistan.

Chinese leaders have long emphasized their heavy schedule of overseas travel, especially their willingness to visit poorer countries. Prior to Covid, Xi became the first to overtake his U.S. counterpart in annual average number of visits to foreign countries, according to Thomas’ research.

In the years leading up to Covid, Xi traveled to an average of 14 countries a year, spending around 34 days abroad, Thomas estimated. This notably exceeded the average for Mr. Obama (25 days of travel abroad) and Mr. Trump (23).

“President Xi’s diplomatic traces cover all regions of the world,” said a report shared by Communist Party media in late 2019.

Xi has left his mark on the world by abandoning the idea that China should be a modest player on the international stage – “hiding our strength and biding our time,” as his predecessor Deng Xiaoping has said. Now, however, he finds himself trying to project China’s new image of confident ambition on video meetings.

It does so while facing international scrutiny over many of China’s policies, the origins of the coronavirus, growing rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, and its increasingly ominous warnings in Taiwan.

Surveys have shown that the perception of China has deteriorated sharply in many major countries over the past two years.

Victor Shih, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, said Mr. Xi’s limited travel coincided with an increasingly nationalist tone at home that appears to preclude meaningful cooperation or compromise.

“He no longer feels he needs international support because he has so much national support or national control,” Mr. Shih said. “This general effort to woo America and also European countries is less today than it was during his first term.”

The schedule of meetings in Rome and Glasgow also clashed with preparations for a home meeting which clearly took precedence. From November 8 to 11, the country’s communist elite will meet in Beijing for a closed-door session that will be a major step towards Xi’s next phase of power.

Xi’s absence from Rome and Glasgow could be a missed opportunity for countries to unite around a stronger and unified global effort on climate or economic recovery. It seems unlikely that Chinese delegations will have the power to negotiate meaningful compromises on their own.

“These are problematic areas where there was hope for cooperation and hope for positive results,” Ms. Legarda, a Chinese analyst at the Mercator Institute, said of the Glasgow climate summit. “With Xi Jinping not present, it is at first difficult to know if they will manage to get there. Second, I guess the question is: is not this a priority for Beijing, in the minds of many leaders? ”

Claire Fu contributed research.

Local News Fox news Xi has not left China for 21 months. Covid may be only part of the reason.

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.