China, the U.S., and Creating Shared Futures in a Fractured World at Davos

This post was written by Project Pengyou intern, Jenna Ludwig.


Image Credit: New York Times

From January 23-26, global leaders across all industries converged on Davos, Switzerland to attend the Annual Meeting hosted by the World Economic Forum. The theme this year was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, and was attended by many heads of state and business elites, including U.S. President Trump and Communist Party of China Central Committee member, Liu He.

President Trump used his speech to refine the “America First” message that he has touted since his presidential campaign. He emphasized that his rhetoric did not mean America alone, and now that the U.S. economy has bounced back, he invited greater international investment. The rest of President Trump’s speech focused on economics, although he touched on terrorism and North Korea, and noticeably left out mention of climate change or China.

Last year, President Xi became the first Chinese president to attend the Davos meeting where he focused his message on a shared future and global collective responsibility. This year he opted to skip the forum, sending Liu He, a close advisor to the President and an important player in setting Chinese economic policy. Liu continued the message of the previous year, asserting a commitment to globalization. Below are a few promises made during his speech:

  1. Climate Change: Liu He pledged that in only three years China will have blue skies. Although the Chinese government vowed to reduce pollution during its last five-year plan, Liu announced a hard and fast timeline. Liu positioned China’s climate plan in terms of action by the international community and reiterated China’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. The overall message was that China is taking strategic steps towards taming the pollution and seeks to be a global leader in climate policy.
  2. Economics: Financial leaders were glad to hear that China has a plan to reduce its national debt within three years. Without offering details, Liu said that the focus would be on slowing and controlling the growing debt of local governments and companies. Observers took this as a positive sign out of Beijing, and are cautiously hopeful that China will not be trapped by an enormous financial burden.
  3. International Trade: Liu also used his time at the World Economic Forum to confirm that China will slowly open up its economy to foreign investments and imports in 2018. This includes all industries, and could dramatically transform China’s economy as it will be open to foreign competition. In addition, Liu announced that China plans to gradually reduce its tariffs on imported cars which sit at a high 25%, currently.

Another standout was that this year’s Davos meeting featured an all-female panel of co-chairs for the first time. The women discussed a diverse range of topics from access to education for girls to corruption to the need to merge economic growth with social good. Other leaders also mentioned gender equality and sexual harassment including Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson who discussed the #metoo movement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on women in the workplace, and Malala Yousafzai who touched on the importance of collective action by global leaders in order to educate girls.

With the U.S. turning away from international cooperation in favor of nationalist protection policies, China emerged a leader at Davos with a reaffirmed commitment to globalization, strong support of collective action on climate change, and a pledge to open up its’ markets to the world economy. However, whether or not China will be able to fulfill these goals within the stated time frames, is impossible to tell.


Want to know more? Check out these links below:

The New York Times: China Will Tame Its Growing Debt Load in 3 Years, Top Xi Advisor Says

Quartz Media: China’s new Davos pledge—blue skies, literally, in three years

SupChina: Davos Provides Propaganda Opportunity For China

The New York Times: A Sober Trump Reassures the Davos Elite