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Xi Jinping’s Unanticipated Abrupt Exit: Implications for China’s Economic Outlook at the Brics Summit
On August 23rd, Chinese President, Xi Jinping, unexpectedly left the Brics Summit in South Africa, marking his absence from the key economic summit of the world’s five emerging powers. His unusual departure came amid speculation that China is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with its dependence on U.S. President Donald Trump’s often-unpredictable style of economic and foreign policy.
The Summit, which stands for the Brazil Russia India China South Africa, focuses on economic engagement among the five countries, as well as their regional and global political relations. The event this year was expected to be a key one for China, and President Xi was expected to be the main speaker. However, media reports have suggested that the President left the Summit even before his scheduled address.
This has caused some surprise, as the Summit was widely seen as an opportunity for China to take the reins of global leadership, and further cement its status as an emerging superpower. Chinese officials have remained silent on the matter, suggesting the President left for “personal reasons”.
The move is reportedly being interpreted as China’s discomfort with U.S. President Donald Trump’s often unpredictable approach to global affairs. This is especially true after recent U.S.-led trade wars which have caused a strain in U.S.-China relations, and greater uncertainty about the future of globalization.
However, speculation also suggests that China is using its absence from the Summit as a bargaining tool, signalling its intention to push for a different economic approach to the one favoured by the United States.
For now, President Xi’s departure is seen as a surprising move. Its implications for the future of global economic relations remain to be seen, but as the world’s second-largest economy, China’s absence from Brics could have potentially far-reaching consequences.On August 23, 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping unexpectedly left the highly-anticipated BRICS Summit in South Africa without making an official statement. This was despite the fact that the summit was expected to discuss China’s position in BRICS, which is a joint endeavor between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and had been heralded as an important event.
The Chinese government did not give any explanation for Xi Jinping’s absence, and instead, Vice Premier Han Zheng ran the meeting in his stead. Reports suggest, however, that the Chinese leader’s sudden departure may be related to his dwindling support in the public opinion and economic uncertainty in the country.
Since taking office as president in 2013, Xi Jinping has implemented strong measures to consolidate power and severely restrict civil liberties. This includes targeting civil society, independent media, and the internet. His authoritarian policies have resulted in widespread public discontent, especially among China’s increasingly affluent middle classes.
Furthermore, Xi Jinping’s policies of increasing political and economic centralization have come at a time when China is facing an economic slowdown. This is the result of slower economic growth, high levels of debt, and the ongoing trade war with the United States. With China’s export-oriented economy already facing serious headwinds, these factors have worsened the outlook for the country’s economy.
As such, it appears that by skipping the BRICS Summit, Xi Jinping hopes to avoid the spotlight and limit the criticism of his policies. In this way, he also may be attempting to buy himself time to respond to the various economic and political challenges facing China.
Nevertheless, the decision to skip the summit was not welcomed by analysts and commentators. They argue that, at a time when the global economy is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is important for countries to cooperate and use international frameworks, such as BRICS, to work together to move past the current economic downturn.
Given the overall significance of the BRICS Summit, Xi Jinping’s absence is likely to be further scrutinized in the coming days. Consequently, it remains to be seen what implications this will have for China’s relations with the other countries in the bloc.