Xi Jinping Suddenly Disappears in the BRICS Summit Forum, What's Up?

Chinese President Xi Jinping missed one of the business forums from the BRICS Summit in South Africa, Tuesday (22/8/2023). This raises a conundrum regarding his whereabouts, with the fact that he is already in South Africa.


Xi, who arrived in Johannesburg on Monday, is scheduled to deliver a speech at a business forum on Tuesday afternoon with leaders from India, Brazil and South Africa. But Xi was not at the event, with no official announcement or explanation from Beijing.


He also replaced his presence with the Minister of Commerce of China Wang Wentao. Wang was present by reading a speech written by Xi which contained allusions to the United States (US).


Xi is the only BRICS leader who did not attend the business forum. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was unable to attend the summit in person delivered his remarks virtually.


Xi's surprise absence was noted by reporters at the event. This raised questions among long-term observers of China's foreign policy.


"It is very unusual for a Chinese leader to be present in a country hosting a multilateral meeting, especially in a country where China has invested heavily, such as the BRICS, and not be present at the opening ceremony," said Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund's Indo-Pacific. program, told CNN International.


Brian Hart, China Power Project researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Xi's absence was "highly unusual". He added that China's leaders rarely do anything unlawful at important events like this.


"There seems to be something pulling Xi out of the meeting. It could be a health incident or maybe an urgent matter that needs his attention," he said.


"It is also possible that Xi missed the event for some other reason, perhaps in response to developments at the summit."


Prior to the event, Xi met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday morning as part of his state visit to the country. In the evening, Xi attended a dinner hosted by Ramaphosa, along with the leaders of Brazil and India and the Russian Foreign Minister.


"The fact that Xi missed his speech at this meeting, but attended other meetings before and after this meeting, suggests something acute was pulling him away during this meeting. But at this time we don't know why," Hart added.



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