Xi arrived Monday night, Aug. 21, in Johannesburg for the summit on what is only his second international trip this year. He was met on the airport tarmac by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The summit schedule indicated that Xi was expected to attend the forum and deliver remarks. But instead, his speech was read out by Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.
No official reason has been given for Xi's absence. It appeared to be a last-minute decision, as state media articles and social media posts from China's foreign ministry spokesperson were published as though Xi had delivered the speech himself.
Some observers speculated that Xi might be ill, but the Chinese leader attended the summit dinner later that day.
Bill Bishop, author of a popular newsletter about Chinese affairs entitled "Sinocism," noted that there had been a long period this month without any public appearances by Xi, which seemed "a bit strange" for the leader of the Asian giant.
"This last-minute decision to skip the business forum looks even stranger. So in the absence of any useful information from the PRC [People's Republic of China] system rumors will fly," he said.
The China Global South Project noted this was the second unexplained absence by a Chinese official. Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has not been seen in public for months, even before he missed the BRICS foreign ministers' virtual meeting last month.
"To say [Xi’s absence] is extraordinary is an understatement as Chinese leaders never miss highly choreographed events like this," it said.
But even without Xi to deliver it, the speech is predictably loaded with anti-U.S. narratives. It described an unnamed country as "obsessed with maintaining hegemony, [and] has gone out of its way to cripple the emerging markets and developing countries."
"Whoever develops first becomes their target of containment. Whoever is catching up becomes its target of obstruction," Wang said on behalf of Xi.
The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – represent about 40 percent of the world's population and a quarter of global GDP. Leaders of all member nations except Vladimir Putin attended in person as he currently faces an arrest warrant for war crimes issued by the international criminal court.
The BRICS summit was attended by representatives of dozens of other countries, as the main members consider expanding its membership. The bloc has also been trying to replace the U.S. dollar as the premier currency of international reserves and medium of exchange. (Related: END OF THE DOLLAR: South Africa says over 40 countries want to join BRICS.)
South African Ambassador to BRICS Anil Sooklal was recently quoted as saying: "The days of a dollar-centric world is over. That's a reality. We have a multipolar global trading system today."
Some members like China are seeking to build up BRICS as a counterweight to western blocs like the G7 or G20, but there seems to be a division within the group.
On Tuesday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said it isn't the group’s aim to compete with western institutions. India's leadership is also hesitant to empower China through BRICS.
Read more news about Xi Jinping and China at CommunistChina.news.
Watch this video where Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared that change is coming.
This video is from the Awakening channel on Brighteon.com.