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Davos sets agenda for 2017, with Xi Jinping at its head

By Jeremy Garlick | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-01-13 17:35

It’s that time of year again, when the World Economic Forum (WEF) holds its annual meeting for movers and shakers in Davos, the famous Swiss ski resort. This year the event is to be held from Jan 17-20 and is sure to be keenly followed by all who are concerned about how the future of China intersects with the problems that beset today’s world. There are two specific reasons why this year’s Davos is going to be especially interesting.

The first of these is that Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has never been to Davos before, is attending the WEF’s 47th edition. The second is that the conference focuses on the theme of ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership’.

The concept of responsible leadership is one which China has been actively seeking to address for the past few years. Beijing is currently trying to demonstrate its willingness to take on a leading role in world affairs through the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and a raft of other projects.

It is therefore a shame that some other leaders of global powers, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and America’s Donald Trump, will not be present to discuss the direction the world should take through 2017 and beyond. Trump has a good excuse: he is being inaugurated as US president. However, Merkel’s decision not to attend is something of a mystery.

Nevertheless, getting down to the nuts and bolts of this meeting of global elites, the WEF wants to set an agenda for global leaders by suggesting discussion of five areas where humanity needs to face up to change.

The first of these is the necessity of preparing for what the WEF likes to call the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Technological changes mean that workers are faced with new challenges due to robots and artificial intelligence. Other innovations such as biotechnology, quantum computing and driverless cars are going to bring important and lasting changes too.

There can therefore be little doubt that the global economy needs to reset. China is already putting itself in prime position to be at the forefront of the coming tectonic shift in the relationship between technology and the economy via its world-leading investment in renewable energy.

Several recent reports show that China is now the world’s biggest investor in renewables, having pumped more than $100 billion into the domestic scene in 2015, which is more than twice as much as the US. Overseas investments also soared by more than 60 percent in 2016.

Thus, Xi is in a strong position to demonstrate to the Davos elites that China is the global leader on addressing climate change, global warming and environmental degradation. This is particularly the case since the US under Trump is seemingly likely to slash budgets for investment in green technologies.

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