Dazed by Davos? Here is a quick recap of some of the key moments from the first day of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2017.
1. China’s President Xi Jinping defends globalization
In his first visit to Davos, Xi Jinping warned against making economic globalization a scapegoat for all the world’s problems.
“It is true that economic globalization has created new problems. But this is no justification to write off economic globalization altogether. Rather, we should adapt to and guide globalization, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations,” he said.
The president of China also underlined his commitment to the Paris climate talks, and warned against the dangers of protectionism.
“We should commit ourselves to growing an open global economy,” he said. “No one will emerge as the winner in a trade war.”
He concluded his speech – which you can watch in full here – with a call for cooperation in the face of common challenges:
“World history shows that the road of human civilization has never been a smooth one, and that mankind has made progress by surmounting difficulties. No difficulty, however daunting, will stop mankind from advancing. When encountering difficulties, we should not complain about ourselves, blame others, lose confidence or run away from responsibilities. We should join hands and rise to the challenge. History is created by the brave. Let us boost confidence, take actions and march arm-in-arm towards a bright future.”
2. Donald Trump’s aide says you’ve got the president-elect all wrong
Just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, his aide Anthony Scaramucci shared his insights on the next president’s priorities – and tackled some common concerns head on.
Scaramucci, who from Friday will head up the White House Office for Public Liaison, told Davos that Trump was not the enemy of globalization, that he sought a strong bilateral relationship with China rather than a trade war, that he wanted to reform NATO, not tear it apart, that he wasn’t opposed to the European Union, and that he sought to build peace.
“I see him very differently than maybe you guys see him, but I think over the next four years … you’re going to start seeing him more the way I see him,” said Scaramucci, who from Friday will head up the White House Office for Public Liaison.
3. Just eight men own as much wealth as half of humanity
The day after Oxfam drew attention to this shocking statistic in its report on inequality, its executive-director, Winnie Byanyima, was in Davos talking about how to fix a broken system.
“This is much more than a numbers game: these are the hallmarks of an economic system that has forgotten about people and is strangling the prospects of a better, fairer, more prosperous future for us all,” Byanyima wrote in an essay for Agenda.
4. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming, whether we’re ready or not
This was a theme that rippled through almost every session here: how will our fragile societies cope as the online age, artificial intelligence and automation wreak havoc on jobs?
The Co-Chairs of the meeting, giving an opening press conference, agreed that there was a need to shift towards long-term thinking to gear up for the profound changes ahead.
Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said that responsible leadership in the business sphere meant giving workers the skills they need for the coming wave of change.
In a session on preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, said: “We must ask how it will help the average working man for the future.”
Already grappling with the digital world was the Indian film-maker Karan Johar, who described checking the online reaction to a new release:
“I wake up, and I go through bouts of nausea, because everyone is either abusing you, praising you, being excessively opinionated about what you’ve made... I check everything, I’m a complete sucker.”
5. Nobel Prize-winning economist wants to wave goodbye to the dollar
Joseph Stiglitz argued that fading out currencies like the dollar in favour of a purely digital economy would cut corruption. Such a move would have “benefits that outweigh the cost,” the Columbia University professor said in the Davos session on ending corruption.
“You can put it into the context of one of the big issues being discussed in Davos this year – the backlash against globalization, the darker side of globalization ... The lack of transparency in global financial markets, the secrecy havens that the Panama Papers exposed, just reinforced what we already knew ... There is a global framework for both corruption and tax evasion and tax avoidance.
“The fact that you can hide ill-gotten gains so easily in these secrecy havens really provides incentives for people to engage in this activity as they can get the economic returns and then enjoy the benefits of those returns. If there were not these secrecy havens then the benefits from engaging in these kinds of illicit activity would be much diminished.”
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