As the presidents and prime ministers of the Group of 20 nations met in Rome this weekend, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, was not among them. Nor was he expected at the climate talks next week in Glasgow, where China’s commitment to curbing carbon emissions is seen as crucial to helping blunt the dire consequences of climate change. He has yet to meet President Biden in person and seems unlikely to any time soon.
Mr. Xi has not left China in 21 months — and counting.
The ostensible reason for Mr. Xi’s lack of foreign travel is Covid-19, though officials have not said so explicitly. It is also a calculation that has reinforced a deeper shift in China’s foreign and domestic policy.
China, under Mr. Xi, no longer feels compelled to cooperate — or at least be seen as cooperating — with the United States and its allies on anything other than its own terms.
Still, Mr. Xi’s recent absence from the global stage has complicated China’s ambition to position itself as an alternative to American leadership. And it has coincided with, some say contributed to, a sharp deterioration in the country’s relations with much of the rest of the world.
Other world leaders were also missing from the gathering in Rome, including President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Mr. Xi’s absence has dampened hopes that the gatherings in Rome and Glasgow can make meaningful progress on two of the most pressing issues facing the world today: the postpandemic recovery and the fight against global warming.
Mr. Biden, who is attending both gatherings, had sought to meet Mr. Xi on the sidelines, in keeping with his strategy to work with China on issues like climate change, even as the two countries clash on others. Instead, the two leaders have agreed to hold a “virtual summit” before the end of the year, though no date has been announced yet.