Chinese president Xi Jinping is likely to skip a summit of G20 leaders in India next week, sources familiar with the matter in India and China told Reuters.
Two Indian officials, one diplomat based in China and one official working for the government of another G20 country, said Premier Li Qiang is expected to represent Beijing at the Sept. 9-10 meeting in New Delhi.
Spokespersons for the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
Li is also likely to attend a summit of East and Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia on Sept 5-7, according to a report from Kyodo.
The summit in India had been viewed as a venue at which Xi may meet with U.S. president Joe Biden, who has confirmed his attendance, as the two superpowers seek to stabilize relations soured by a range of trade and geopolitical tensions.
Xi last met Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last November.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has already announced that he will not be traveling to New Delhi and will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead.
One senior government official from host India told Reuters that "we are aware that the premier will come" in place of Xi.
In China, two foreign diplomats and a government official from another G20 country said that Xi will likely not be traveling for the summit.
Two of these three sources in China said they were informed by Chinese officials, but they were not aware of the reason for Xi's expected absence.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Anticipation of a meeting between Xi and Biden has been fueled by a stream of top U.S. officials visiting Beijing in recent months, including a trip by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo earlier this week.
Another upcoming summit mooted for face-to-face talks between the two leaders is an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in San Francisco on Nov. 12-18.
Xi, who secured a precedent-breaking third term as leader last October, has made few overseas trips since China abruptly dropped strict pandemic-induced border controls this year.
He did, however, attend a meeting from leaders of the BRICS group of major emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—in South Africa last week.
Several G20 ministerial meetings in India ahead of the summit have been contentious as Russia and China together opposed joint statements which included paragraphs condemning Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine last year.
Xi and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi held a rare conversation on the sidelines of the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg and discussed reducing tensions in the bilateral relationship that soured after clashes along their Himalayan frontier in 2020 left 24 soldiers dead.
(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik in New Delhi and Laurie Chen and Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; editing by YP Rajesh, John Geddie and Raju Gopalakrishnan)