Despite Xi's decision not to attend G20 in India, China says bilateral ties are 'generally stable'

BEIJING (AP) — Despite Chinese President Xi Jinping's decision not to attend this week's Group of 20 summit in India, Beijing says that relations between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants remain “generally stable.”

China announced on Monday that Premier Li Qiang, who took office just this spring, would represent China at the Sept. 9-10 meeting in New Delhi.

Relations between China and India remain frosty over their border dispute that led to a clash three years ago in which 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed. It has turned into a long-running standoff in the rugged mountainous area, where each side has stationed tens of thousands of military personnel backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets.

Without mentioning the dispute, or the reason for Xi's decision not to attend, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Chinese leaders have “always supported India’s hosting of this year’s summit and are ready to work with all parties to make the G20 summit a success.”

“At present, China-India relations remain generally stable, and dialogue and communication have been maintained at all levels,” Mao told reporters at a daily briefing.

“We are willing to work with the Indian side to promote greater and continuous development of China-India relations,” she said.

Frictions between the two have also arisen over trade, technology and investment and India’s growing strategic ties with China’s main rival, the United States. Both India and China have expelled the other’s journalists and once-plentiful educational exchanges have all but dried up.

India recently overtook China as the world’s most populous nation and the two are rivals in computers, steel-making, space exploration and other high-tech fields.

Seeking to tamp down the possibility of future clashes, Chinese and Indian military commanders met last month and pledged to “maintain the peace and tranquility” along the Line of Actual Control that separates Chinese- and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety.

By not attending the G20, Xi passes on an opportunity for an interaction with President Joe Biden at a time when relations between their two countries have hit a historical low. China also appears to be hinting that Xi will not attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting in San Francisco in November.