Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will attend the G20 summit in Bali this year, raising the prospect of a meeting with Joe Biden at a time of heightened tensions between the world’s military superpowers over Taiwan and Ukraine.
Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo told Bloomberg TV that the Chinese and Russian leaders told him they would come to the conference, setting up a potentially difficult series of meeting as governments clash over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Relations have also soured further between Beijing and Washington in recent weeks following US House Speaker’s Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan and China’s unprecedented military drills around the island in response.
The tense geopolitical rivalries have become a diplomatic challenge for Indonesia, which leads the G20 this year, and had cast doubt over whether Xi and Putin would attend the meeting.
“The rivalry of the big countries is indeed worrying,” said the Indonesian leader, who is known as Jokowi. “What we want is for this region to be stable, peaceful, so that we can build economic growth. And I think not only Indonesia: Asian countries also want the same thing.”
Following the People’s Liberation Army military exercises around Taiwan this month, US business leaders have said that hopes of a de-escalation between the world’s two biggest economies hinged on a meeting between Xi and Biden to resolve their differences.
Xi’s presence at Bali would mark the Chinese leader’s first trip outside of the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Since Biden became US president 18 months ago, he and Xi have held five conversations via telephone. During their most recent call last month, the Chinese president reissued a warning to Washington to not “play with fire” by supporting Taiwan.
But the leaders also directed their respective teams to schedule an in-person meeting, a senior US official said at the time.
Ahead of Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, US secretary of state Antony Blinken met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi at a G20 foreign ministers’ conference, during which he said he had expressed concerns over Beijing’s alignment with Russia. But Blinken declined to meet Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who reportedly stormed out of talks with western ministers after facing criticism over the Ukraine war.
Xi is not expected to attend an international summit before the 20th Chinese Communist party congress in November, when he is forecast to be reappointed as head of the party and Central Military Commission, paving the way for an unprecedented third term as president.
The congress is expected to take place in October or November, but no date has been set.