Indonesian President Joko Widodo told the South China Morning Post on Thursday that he has reason to believe Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would attend the G-20 summit scheduled to take place in November.
Indonesia is hosting the summit and Jokowi, as the president is typically called, has taken a personal interest in attempting to broker negotiations between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky is invited and has suggested that he will attempt the summit, as well, potentially setting up the first in-person meeting between himself and Putin in years.
Xi’s presence will also potentially set up a tense encounter between the Chinese dictator and American President Joe Biden, who is expected to attend. Biden has boasted for years of maintaining a close personal relationship with Xi, making bizarre (and reportedly false) claims to having traveled 17,000 miles alongside Xi. While Biden has for decades established close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, Xi’s management of the ongoing genocide of Muslim-majority groups in East Turkistan, long record of human rights atrocities, widespread accusations of espionage and intellectual property theft, and violent threats against America have greatly deteriorated diplomatic ties between Beijing and Washington.
Biden has called for Russia to be removed from the G20 bloc, a coalition of the world’s 20 largest economies, but has traditionally held friendly encounters with Putin. Last year, Biden snubbed Zelensky’s request for an in-person meeting and traveled to Europe to meet with Putin instead, for a summit in which Biden listed specific cyberattack targets that would be particularly damaging to America and politely asked Putin not to attack them.
“Xi Jinping will come. President Putin has also told me he will come,” Jokowi told the South China Morning Post, without elaborating.
The Indonesian president lamented the “rivalry of the big countries,” presumably the China-Russia alliance and America and the world’s free states, and stated that it was “worrying” to southeast Asia, which primarily seeks “economic growth.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not confirmed Jokowi’s remarks. The Russian news agency Tass reported Jokowi’s comments and the Kremlin appeared to tentatively confirm plans for Putin to attend the event.
Jokowi boasted of Indonesia hosting the G-20 summit on Tuesday during his annual state address to the country.
“In 2022, we hold the presidency of the G20, an international forum made up of the world’s largest economies. Next year, we will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN,” he noted, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “It indicates that we [are at the] pinnacle of global leadership.”
Indonesia took on a surprisingly prominent role in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine in June, when Jokowi traveled to both Kyiv and Moscow in an attempt to serve as what he described as a “bridge” between the warring states.
“The Indonesian constitution mandates to contribute to the creation of world peace. It is in this context that I visited Kyiv and Moscow,” Jokowi said at the time. “The current situation is still very difficult, but it is important to continue to promote a peaceful settlement and open spaces for dialogue.”
Jokowi first visited Kyiv and said that Zelensky had offered him a private message to relay personally to Putin.
It was during Jokowi’s visit to Kyiv that Zelensky said he would likely attend the G-20 summit, though he appeared to leave some room for declining in the event that the guest list was not to his liking.
“Certainly I accept the invitation. Ukraine’s participation will depend on the security situation in the country and on the composition of the summit’s participants,” Zelensky said at the time. He did not specify if Putin attending would result in his absence at the summit. Zelensky and his administration have yet to weigh in on Jokowi’s comments at press time.
Russia and Ukraine have been at war for over eight years following Moscow’s decision to invade and colonize Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. In February, however, the scale of the war expanded and Putin sent Russian troops deep into central Ukraine, attacking the capital and recognizing two separatist groups in eastern Ukraine as “states.” In doing so, Putin delivered a speech claiming Ukraine “was completely created by Russia” and had “no tradition” of being sovereign.
Xi Jinping’s presence will likely be far less contentious for Zelensky. In an interview in early August, also with the South China Morning Post, Zelensky requested one-on-one discussions with Xi and invited the Chinese Communist Party to help rebuild the parts of Ukraine that the war had destroyed.
“I would like to talk directly. I had one conversation with [President] Xi Jinping that was a year ago,” Zelensky said in the interview. “Since the beginning of the large-scale aggression on February 24, we have asked officially for a conversation, but we (haven’t had) any conversation with China even though I believe that would be helpful.”
Zelensky also said he would like to see “Chinese businesses” invest further in Ukraine.