G-20 Summit | China backs New Delhi Declaration’s focus away from ‘geopolitics’

New Delhi Declaration drops references to Ukraine war, which was a sticking point for China and Russia

Updated - September 09, 2023 10:45 pm IST

Published - September 09, 2023 10:33 pm IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with Chinese Premier Li Qiang upon his arrival at Bharat Mandapam convention centre for the G-20 Summit in New Delhi on September 9, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with Chinese Premier Li Qiang upon his arrival at Bharat Mandapam convention centre for the G-20 Summit in New Delhi on September 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

China, which had strongly opposed in the negotiations leading up to the G-20 Summit any direct references to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, finally backed the New Delhi Declaration and reaffirmed its recent calls for the grouping to stay away from “geopolitics”.

Click here to read the full declaration

Beijing’s opposition to references to Ukraine – the New Delhi Declaration dropped the mention of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as had been stated in last year’s Bali Declaration – had been the most significant of several sticking points in forging a consensus. The declaration also “reaffirm[ed] that the G-20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation”, a point repeatedly emphasised recently by Chinese officials as a criticism of the West.

A swipe at the West

The official state-run Xinhua news agency, in a commentary following the issuing of the declaration, once again targeted the West for trying to bring “geopolitical tensions” into the G-20.

“’Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, a Sanskrit phrase from ancient Indian scriptures, means ‘the world is one family’. This is especially true given the global economy’s fight against supply chain instability, a result of the ‘high fence, small yard’ protectionism led by the United States, an increasingly fragmented world plagued by bloc politics, and an unfair global economic governance system dominated by the West that is long overdue for reform,” the official commentary said. “However, certain countries will likely try to dominate the agenda with a focus on geopolitical tensions and ideological confrontations to fuel disagreement, putting unity in jeopardy.”

G-20 Summit, September 9, 2023 | updates

That was also the message in Chinese Premier and second-ranked leader Li Qiang’s speech to the summit on Saturday, when he “urged all countries to respect one another, seek common ground while shelving differences” and added that the G-20 needed “unity instead of division, cooperation instead of confrontation, and inclusion instead of exclusion”.

President Xi Jinping skipped a G-20 summit for the first time, with some observers suggesting the Chinese leader, in the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not want to face the prospect of isolation and criticism from Western leaders if the G-20 Summit, as some had feared, failed to arrive at a communique for the first time.

Mr. Xi’s absence had also been seen as potentially reducing the likelihood of a last-minute high-level intervention as other Chinese officials would not likely have the authority to do so. In the final event, Mr. Xi’s absence did not matter and an intervention was not needed, with the New Delhi Declaration dropping the references to Ukraine that Russia and China had opposed, and a consensus reached even as the leaders of those two countries stayed away.  

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