China and the United States will test the resilience of their relations for the first time since the outbreak of the corona pandemic this Monday when the presidents of both countries meet for direct talks. The meeting ahead of the G-20 summit comes amid rising tensions between the two superpowers and the war in Ukraine.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who hosted the summit, warned that the region could be caught between the fronts of the two great powers. The Asean states must be a peaceful region and an anchor for global stability, said Widodo in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh on the sidelines of the preceding summit of the group of states.
Also Russia spoke up shortly before the G-20 summit, which President Vladimir Putin will not attend after long speculation. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov set the tone in an attack on the West and warned against militarizing Southeast Asia to limit Russian and Chinese interests in the region. “The United States and its NATO allies are trying to dominate this space,” Lavrov said on Sunday. The US sought “the militarization of this region with an apparent focus on containing China and containing Russian interests in the Asia-Pacific region.” At the same time, Lavrov warned against a debate about the Ukraine war. “That would be an interference with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council,” which would disrupt G-20 deliberations.
The warning notwithstanding, the war and tensions between the US and China will certainly be the focus of the Xi-Biden encounter this Monday and the G-20 summit on Tuesday and Wednesday. US President Joe Biden and China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping will speak to each other directly at the Nusa Dua test site – they last met in person when Biden was still vice president. For the organizer Indonesia and its President Joko Widodo, this encounter is already considered a success.
Of course, it remains to be seen how peaceful things will be in the courtrooms. Because of the participation of the Russian Foreign Minister, the symbolically important group photo will probably be omitted. The G-20 meeting is themed on the economic recovery after the lockdowns of the Covid pandemic.
Biden wants to strengthen US influence
The US President previously attended the climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh and the Asean meeting in Phnom Penh, which again took place without Myanmar’s junta. In a slip of the tongue, Biden praised the host country “Colombia” – beyond the slip of the tongue, however, his statement that the US military was a factor in the conflicts with China in the South China Sea was important. The remark was made with a view to the neighboring countries of Vietnam and the Philippines, which are suffering from China’s extensive neighborhood policy. Biden is trying to strengthen US influence again after some G-20 members, such as India, see the fatal withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as proof of the government’s unreliability in Washington.
India’s President Narendra Modi is also expected in Nusa Dua on Monday. He is arriving with a tailwind, as is American election winner Biden: In September, India ousted the former colonial power Great Britain from fifth place among the world’s largest economic powers. Chancellor Olaf Scholz also embarked on a tour of Asia before the G20 summit. He visited Vietnam and the Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business in Singapore.
Germany, France, Italy and the EU, which is also represented as a member of the G20, will again campaign for sanctions against Russia at the summit. China and India, which have a combined population of 2.8 billion, will see things differently. They are currently the largest buyers of Russian energy. So Putin will be very present at this summit. Even if he doesn’t come.