DAVOS, Switzerland – Chinese President Xi Jinping will defend globalization in the face of mounting public hostility in the West on Tuesday in a speech at the World Economic Forum that will underline Beijing’s growing global role.
Xi’s appearance, a first for a Chinese leader at the annual meeting of political leaders, CEOs and bankers in Davos, comes as the part the United States plays as a force for multilateral cooperation on issues like trade and climate change is in doubt following the election of Donald Trump.
Europe, meanwhile, is pre-occupied with its own troubles, from Brexit and militant attacks to the string of elections this year in which anti-globalization populists could score gains.
This has left a vacuum that China seems eager to fill.
“It is no coincidence that Xi chose this year to make the trip up the magic mountain,” said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a U.S. based political risk consultancy.
More than half a dozen senior Chinese government figures will be in Davos this week, far more than in past years. And a large number of sessions are focused on Asia, including one entitled “Asia Takes the Lead”.
WEF founder Klaus Schwab said Xi’s presence was a sign of the shift from a uni-polar world dominated by the United States, to a more multi-polar system in which rising powers like China will have to step up and play a bigger role.
“We can hope that China in this new world will assume a responsive and responsible leadership role,” Schwab told reporters. “So in some ways it is very symbolic to have the president of China here.”