A planned G20 meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Xi Jinping of China has been cancelled due to “scheduling issues,” a Downing Street spokesperson said on Wednesday.
The schedule at the summit on the Indonesian island of Bali has been disrupted by an emergency meeting called after a missile killed two people in Poland near its border with Ukraine.
Sunak and Xi had been due to hold the first meeting between British and Chinese leaders for almost five years, with Sunak’s office saying beforehand that the prime minister would seek to establish a “frank and constructive relationship.”
Relations between London and Beijing have deteriorated in the last decade as Britain expressed alarm that an open door to Chinese investment could pose national security risks.
London had also criticized Beijing’s trade practices and human rights record in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
In a statement released before the planned meeting, Downing Street said the challenges posed by China were “systemic” and “long-term.”
“China is a country with fundamentally different values to ours, with an authoritarian leadership intent on reshaping the international order,” it said.
However Sunak was expected to take a more nuanced approach to Beijing than his predecessor Liz Truss, who had said that China must play by the rules.
“None of the issues the Prime Minister is discussing at the G20 - the global economy, the impacts of the war in Ukraine on food and energy security, climate change and global health - can be addressed without coordinated action by all the world’s major economies. That includes China,” his office had said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said she had no information to offer on the cancellation of the meeting between Xi and Sunak.
In Moscow, the defense ministry denied that any Russian missiles had hit Polish territory, and US President Joe Biden said the projectile had probably not been fired from Russia.