Chinese Premier Xi's border visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin in March has been his sole trip abroad, representing the shortest amount of time he's spent overseas in the first half of a year since taking power, excluding the pandemic. Just two days is all President Xi Jinping has spent outside his country this year, as mounting domestic problems from a faltering economy to rare political scandals demand the Chinese leader's attention at home.
That's a major shift from his pre-Covid schedule, when Xi traveled more often and for longer than his US counterpart. The Chinese leader made an average of 14 overseas trips annually between 2013 and 2019, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of government readouts of Xi's diplomatic meetings.
Now, Xi is making foreign dignitaries come to him. He's met representatives from 36 nations including France, Eritrea and the US in Beijing so far this year. Before the pandemic, Xi hosted an average of 48 dignitaries annually in the same period, meaning his overall in-person dialogue is in decline.
And, unlike in the pandemic, he's not supplementing meetings with video calls: The Chinese leader has had just one this year with the Czech Republic.
"China simply has more urgent domestic priorities," said Sung, noting that Xi's centralization of power means his presence is increasingly required to deal with such problems. "As the opportunity cost of his absence rises, Xi will naturally become even more selective about going on extended visits abroad and he will go abroad less frequently."