China to leave big footprint at Davos

The 2018 World Economic Forum will take place in Switzerland January 23-26, focusing on the theme of 'Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World'. The title alone is clearly linked to China's in...
by George N. Tzogopoulos
Davos davos
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde (1st L) and IMF Economic Counsellor and Director of Research Maurice Obstfeld (2nd L) attend a press conference on Update of the World Economic Outlook in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2018. Xinhua

The 2018 World Economic Forum will take place in Switzerland January 23-26, focusing on the theme of 'Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World'. The title alone is clearly linked to China's interests and objectives.

President Xi Jinping regularly uses the terminology 'shared future' in his speeches. One year ago, for instance, he delivered a keynote speech at the UN Office in Geneva entitled: 'Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Humanity'. He has repeated the same message on several occasions, such as his 2018 New Year speech.

The 2018 Davos Forum is taking place at a time when political, economic and social fractures are emerging. The European Union has managed to absorb the Brexit shock but remains unable to inspire the younger generation of member-states and cannot hide its inhuman face shown during the refugee crisis with few exceptions.

In addition, the U.S. exhibits deep social divisions with people either loving or hating Donald Trump. The Charlottesville incident last July shows America has not healed the nation's wounds as he promised.

From another perspective,civil wars are jeopardizing the future of some countries, including Syria and Libya, still dreaming of peace and stability six years after the beginning of the Arab Spring.

Amid the turbulence, China is investing in continuity and responsibility. Its policy decisions are in line with either its international obligations or its 13th five-year plan for economic and social development. Further to this, with the implementation of its Belt and Road Initiative, China is elaborating on the 'win-win' concept based on infrastructure work that is boosting interconnectivity and creating the conditions for renewed prosperity.

Last year, Xi made a landmark speech in Davos, where his presence in the Swiss resort was both substantial and symbolical. It was substantial because he clarified his country's position in favor of free trade and globalization. And it was symbolic in that  the leaders of both the U.S. and Germany were absent,  giving him the necessary space to outline shifts in the world economy with China being an economic colossus defining developments.

It is no coincidence that most Chinese affairs experts are referring to Xi's 2017 Davos address in interpreting China's role in international affairs and comparing it to that the withdrawn attitude of the U.S. under the Trump administration.

This year, China will be represented in Davos by Liu He, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Director of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs and Vice Minister and Leading Party Members Group Deputy Secretary of National Development and Reform Commission.

This Chinese economist and politician is enjoying good reputation abroad. In a recent article, for instance, Bloomberg focused on his contribution to the stabilization of the Chinese economy during the 'New Normal' phase, as well as his role in promoting the economic relationship between Beijing and Washington.

On the same wavelength, the founder and chief executive of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, has admitted: 'We know [Liu's] crucial role in shaping the economic policies in China'.

This said, Liu can certainly inform other Davos participants – often incredulous – about the progress of his country's economy.  Numbers themselves are telling. According to a preliminary estimation of the Chinese government, the national GDP was 82.7122 trillion yuan in 2017, an increase of 6.9 percent at constant prices compared with last year.

On a quarterly basis, the year-on-year growth of GDP was 6.9 percent, 6.9 percent, 6.8 percent, and 6.8 percent. The World Bank recently raised its forecast for China's economic growth in 2017 to 6.8 percent from 6.7 percent it projected last October. That is because personal consumption and foreign trade supported growth.

Economists surveyed by the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences had agreed the country's economy would grow 6.8 percent year-on-year in 2017 and the stable momentum would continue into 2018.

This economic calmness is important as long as supply-side structural reform remains the centerpiece of China's economic agenda. Priorities are continuously shifting from high-speed growth to high-quality development.

All in all, the Chinese presence at the 2018 World Economic Forum constitutes another good opportunity for leaders, economists and journalists to familiarize themselves with the country's economic achievements in a 'fractured world'.

The author is a columnist with China.org.cn.

Source: China.org.cn