The World Economic Forum, which left snowy Davos this year and will be held online, begins today with a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country seems to have turned the page on the coronavirus, at least on the economic front.
Later today, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde will discuss with French Economy Minister Bruno Lemerre, German counterpart Peter Altmeier and Goldman Sachs CEO how to “restore global growth”.
That's the experience of a pandemic that continues to kill people around the world, the key question for officials, corporate leaders and scientists attending online roundtables this week.
The optimism that prevailed in November, when the vaccines became a reality, did not exist at the beginning of this year, which was marked by the imposition of new restrictions, the evolution of different strains of the coronavirus and the delays in the delivery of valuable vials. At the 2020 presentation of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the emergence of a mysterious pneumonia in China had not yet caused much vague concern. The financial elite met at the alpine resort more interested in the controversy between Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg than the lockdown imposed on Uhan.
A year later, and while the US has surpassed the 25 million case mark, forcing new President Joe Biden to re-impose entry restrictions, the Asian continent is once again in full force for this 51st presentation, which welcomes the Presidents of China and South Korea as well as the Prime Ministers of India and Japan Europe will be present through French President Emanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The Biden government is sending epidemiologist Anthony Fauci, the presidency's adviser on the pandemic. As well as John Kerry, a special envoy for the climate, following the decision of the new President to return the United States to the Paris Agreement.
One of the challenges of the new US presidency will be to manage a world whose center of gravity is shifting to Asia. In addition, after this first web conference, Davos will be relocated to Singapore in May, away from the Swiss resort where this symposium, traditionally held in 1971 by German Professor Klaus Swab, is being held. The city-state, which has recorded only 29 deaths, is considered virtually safe at the health level.
“Virus of inequalities”
Apart from the symbolism, many economic data confirm the irresistible rise of Asia and especially China. The only major economy to grow in 2020 (+ 2.3%), China also gained market share: its surplus with the US increased by 7% in 2020. Chinese GDP is also expected to be equal to the US by 2030 , that is, two years earlier than forecasts before the health crisis, according to a recent survey by credit group Euler Hermes.
Finally, a UN study published yesterday showed that in 2020, China became the number one world destination for foreign direct investment, surpassing the United States. In addition, the EU concluded at the end of December a controversial agreement in principle with Beijing aimed at promoting mutual investment. The other big issue to be discussed this week will be the rise of inequalities, which threaten the cohesion of societies. In its annual report released today, Oxfam called for the taxation of the rich to tackle the “virus of inequality”, estimating that billionaires saw their fortunes increase by $ 3.9 trillion from March 18 to December 31, 2020. For their part, the organizers of the Forum argue that they want the re-establishment of capitalism. However, “this economic order is no longer in doubt, where the decisions of large listed companies are determined by shareholders who expect maximum profitability in the short term,” commented Jean-Christophe Graz, a professor of international relations at the University of Lausanne.
Philenews / ΚΥΠΕ