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Xi has turned his back on the world order

Feng Li/Getty

When the world’s most powerful leaders gathered in Delhi for the G20 summit over the weekend, says Michael Shuman in The Atlantic, China’s Xi Jinping “deemed it not worth his time”. Ditching the year’s “premier diplomatic event” marks a dramatic turn for Beijing’s foreign policy. For many years, Xi tried to make China an “alternative to the West”. Now, it seems, he is positioning his country as a “full-on opponent”. The message of his absence from Delhi couldn’t be clearer: “China is done with the established world order.”

This shift has been “a long time coming”. Whereas his predecessors sought to integrate China into the US-led global order, Xi has developed his own institutions that he can lead and control. He formed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to rival Washington’s World Bank. He has promoted competing international forums like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which includes Russia and Iran, and the fast-growing “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). By skipping the US-dominated G20, Xi is trying to discredit it – and in so doing give greater weight to his rival groups. But it’s a bad move. By vacating the stage in Delhi, Xi merely turned it over to Joe Biden. And his absence was a huge insult to the conference’s host, Indian PM Narendra Modi, a crucial player in the power struggles to come. “If Xi wants to win the great geopolitical game, he has to be in it. Instead, he’s opted out.”