G20: Indonesia set to host Biden and Xi as world’s movers and shakers flock to Bali summit

The spotlight has shifted from Putin and Zelenskyy to the leaders of US and China

A file photo of US President Joe Biden speaking virtually with Chinese leader Xi Jinping from the White House. Reuters
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Indonesia is set to host this year’s G20 summit, bringing together the world’s most powerful leaders to discuss the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war and the frozen conflicts of North and South Korea, plus China and Taiwan.

The summit, to be held on the island of Bali on November 15 and 16 (Tuesday and Wednesday), will be expected to find common ground amid fractured opinions on the food and energy crises worsened by the Ukraine war, soaring inflation and climate change.

Indonesia is South-East Asia’s only G20 member and the first in the region to host the summit. It will pass the presidency to India, which will take the chair starting on December 1.

Members aside, Indonesia has also invited other nations to the summit, including the UAE, Singapore, Cambodia and Ukraine.

While the G20 has often been seen as all talk and no action, interest in this year’s summit was high because of word Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy would share a platform for the first time since Moscow’s aggression.

But with Mr Putin choosing to send Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his place, and deciding not to appear even via video, the summit’s spotlight has shifted to the meeting between the leaders of the US and China. Mr Biden previously met Mr Xi in 2015 when he was vice president.

The nearly 13,000 attendees will be keen to see how talks pan out between the two leaders as they face off on trade and human rights issues and also the status of Taiwan. Mr Biden insisted on Sunday that the US would “compete vigorously … while keeping lines of communication open and ensuring competition does not veer into conflict.”

China has undertaken the world's largest military build-up in recent years, while the Biden administration has pit curbs on Beijing's ability to source critical technology for its nascent microchip industry.

India’s PM Narendra Modi may meet UK PM Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the summit.

In all, 17 of the forum’s heads of state, including Mr Biden and Mr Xi, will meet in a complex of luxury resorts in Nusa Dua in the southern part of the island.

The locations will include the Apurva Kempinski, the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, the Tahura Ngurah Rai Mangrove and the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation.

“I have checked the details,” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said after a recent visit to a summit venue. “We are ready to host the guests.”

Apart from the political leaders, Twitter’s new head Elon Musk and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will take part in B20, the G20’s business forum.

Mr Musk will probably join the summit virtually rather than in person.

With the pandemic affecting every aspect of society from health to education and trade, the focus will be on three main areas for this year’s summit: global health architecture, sustainable energy transition, and digital transformation.

Adopting the theme Recover Together, Recover Stronger, Indonesia aims to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and promote sustainable and inclusive economic development via the participation of small businesses and the digital economy.

Banners for the G20 Bali Summit in Nusa Dua. Bloomberg

Bali airport expects as many as 42,000 passengers during the summit.

More than 18,000 security personnel will be deployed, of which 14,300 will be from the military and the rest from the police.

Fourteen warships will also be docked nearby.

The police will use more than 2,300 CCTV cameras, equipped with facial recognition technology, to prevent incidents during the summit, said Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who leads the G20 events organising committee.

Bali’s administration has told some of its 4.3 million residents, especially those living near the venue, to work from home in the days leading up to the event.

Students and workers in three districts near Nusa Dua have been asked to study and work from home.

The police have implemented an odd-even policy for the 10 roads leading to the venue. Vehicles with number plates ending with an odd number cannot travel on even dates, and vice versa.

During the summit, about 1,400 electric vehicles will be used to shuttle delegates, journalists and security personnel.

To avoid any supply disruption, residents have been asked to stop flying kites, which often get stuck in electricity poles, causing power cuts.

Updated: November 14, 2022, 7:16 AM