Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold multilateral meetings with leaders of BRICS countries, trilateral talks with leaders of India and Russia as well as meetings with leaders of African countries during the G20 summit in Japan from Thursday to Saturday, Chinese officials said.

Against rising protectionism and unilateralism in the US, observers and business representatives said that the summit could be a platform for China to strengthen relations with both the developing and developed world and promote regional cooperation so as to jointly defend the free trade mechanism and make the global governance system fairer.

President Xi will attend the 14th G20 Summit in Osaka, marking the seventh time President Xi will attend or Chair the meeting, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun said at a press briefing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on Monday.

On the sidelines, President Xi will hold informal meetings with BRICS leaders, trilateral talks with Russian and Indian leaders as well as small-scale meetings with African leaders to communicate and negotiate on topics like “cooperation among emerging economies and developing countries and the implementation of the 2030 sustainable development agenda of the United Nations,” Zhang said.

Meanwhile, President Xi will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders to deepen cooperation and push forward bilateral relations.

“Certain individual countries which advance unilateralism have abused trade remedy measures and national security concept, severely threatening global trade and economic growth. China is willing to work with all parties to firmly uphold its opening-up policy and contribute to creating a predictable and stable environment for enterprises and investors,” Zhang said.

Observers said that Xi’s schedule sends a signal that Beijing is preparing a two-track approach to deal with protectionism and the US trade war: One is to ally with developed and developing countries to foster joint development, strengthen South-South cooperation and safeguard multilateralism.

Another is to facilitate bilateral trade talks with the US, of which the market has low expectations.

Mansoor Lari, CEO of India’s trade promoting organisation Silk Route Trade and Industry Development Cooperation, told the Global Times Monday that he expects the China-Russia-India meeting to discuss “regional inter-cooperation against any protectionism for a better world” and a balanced global trade, after the US ended preferential trade treatment for India in early June.

The Chinese President’s meeting with other state leaders has become a tradition of the summit, but analysts said in the context of a world system full of uncertainties, this year’s meeting will promote China’s all-round cooperation from trade and investment, infrastructure, the environment and military to culture with strategic partners to hedge against risks associated with strained relations with the US.

The Xinhua News Agency reported last week that President Xi agreed to meet US President Donald Trump after a phone conversation at the request of the US side. So far, top negotiators from both sides are following up on the consensus reached by the two leaders and preparing for the meeting between them, Zhang said.

Whatever the results, China could negate unreasonable US demands and lead efforts in “building a new global governance toward a more fair and peaceful international regime,” Eiichi Shindo, head of the International Academic Society for Asian Community and Japan-based think tank the Belt and Road Initiative Japan Research Center, said.

“G20 could also be a transitional stage from the old system under the Pax-Americana to move to the coming century of Pax-Asiana headed by China,” with support from BRICS countries, Japan and other advanced economies, Shindo noted.

Defending Free Trade

The heads of state of 19 countries and the EU are expected to participate in this year’s summit, according to a statement on the G20 website.

Among their top concerns is protectionism, as the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies involves every stakeholder and all G20 members seek to minimise such an impact, He Weiwen, a Former Senior Chinese trade official, told the Global Times.

The G20 members represent more than 80 percent of global GDP and 60 percent of the global population.

Chinese officials have also called on the G20 to uphold multilateralism, back international justice and create a good environment “for bringing the world economy back on the right track.”

An escalating China-US trade war has not only rattled global markets but also put downward pressure on the world economy.

Current and pending China-US tariffs could slash 0.5 percent off 2020 global GDP growth, or about $455 billion, larger than South Africa’s annual economic output, according to a June study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Chinese analysts pointed out that if the G20 members reach a consensus to pressure the US, that could at least prevent an escalation of the China-US trade war, set up principles for future talks and stabilise the global market.