Xi Jinping goes to Davos
The signals can't be clearer from the two most important countries about the future of the world: China stresses a globalized community while the US turns inward to Make America Great again.
Not surprisingly, we have Xi Jinping for the first time joining the World Economic Forum in Davos while President-elect Donald Trump decided against sending any representative to the event.
It seems that President Xi is fully aware of the changes around the world, such as the rise of protectionism, and most importantly, prepared to deal with the concerns of the common folks.
Writing for a local newspaper, he said "We meet at a time of angst about the prospects of the world economy, growing backlash against economic globalization, and rising populism and trade protectionism. There is a stronger call for revisiting and changing the current paths of development, systems of wealth distribution and models of governance."
The message here echoes the warning he made at the G20 summit back in September in Hangzhou that "Economic openness brings progress and isolation leads to backwardness." The warning is even more urgent given Donald Trump's known dislike of regional free trade agreement, such as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The schedule of Xi Jinping's Switzerland tour also reveals China's commitment to the UN as well as the international institutions. Besides Davos meetings, Xi is also visiting UN agencies and international organizations in Geneva and Lausanne during his stay.
For example, among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China provides the largest contingents of peacekeepers for UN peacekeeping operations.
As the new US presidency offers little predictability and certainty except for the American First principle, there's expectation that China could play a leadership role against the populist and anti-globalization trend, which is believed to be behind the Brexit vote and the election of Trump.
Professor Krause Schwab, the founder of Davos, said at a press conference last week that he expected Xi to explain how China intends to assume the role of a responsible and receptive leader in world affairs.
The fact is China has been playing a role of stabilizer and defender of the international order. China has been pushing for a regional trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region. Its Belt and Road Initiative is bringing investment and trade to countries ranging from central Asia, South east Asia, to East Africa and Europe. China also demonstrated a strong sense of leadership in the fight against Climate Change by signing up to the Paris Agreement.
The latest figures show that China has contributed more than 30% to global economic growth, or some 1.2% percentage points, while the US contribution stands at 0.3%. Therefore, we may say that, as it continues with a stable economic growth, China is already in the driver's seat for global economic expansion.
The theme of the 2017 World Economic Forum is "responsible leadership." While US President-elect Donald Trump and his team skip Davos, President Xi's presence is the best example of what global leadership is.