Davos will mark a crowning moment for Xi’s China, as Europe faces a new world axis
André Loesekrug-Pietri says the first-ever Chinese presidential presence at the World Economic Forum and the marked absence of top European leaders underline the reality of a G2 world
The world is tilting. China continues to weave its web: first commercially, then economically – by its international acquisitions – and now diplomatically and militarily.
This week, in the Swiss resort of Davos, it will probably be a consecration, with the confirmed presence of President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the World Economic Forum. That is an event in itself, as it is not that often that heads of states of major powers come to Davos, except for the regular – former US president Bill Clinton.
January 2017 will probably be a memorable month in history; one that marks the accession to power of a US president who is aiming at the withdrawal – at least partially – of his country from the world stage.
Donald Trump has promised a border wall with Mexico and to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, to focus on domestic economic affairs and disengage from European defence, sparking uncertainties about Nato.
Watch: Trump says he will quit TPP on day one
Meanwhile, Davos will be a major success for the Chinese “hyperpresident”, and a perfect symbol of the fact that powers invariably succeed one another.
This is also the end of what has been the guiding principle of China’s foreign policy for over 35 years, the tao guang yang hui (韬光养晦) of the father of its reforms and opening-up process, Deng Xiaoping ( 鄧小平 ): keep a cool head, keep a low profile, never take leadership, but reach for the sky. This shift is happening on all fronts: the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, reform of international financial institutions, a more assertive stance towards democratic systems, state capitalism, and new models of international relations proposed to countries in Africa or South America. China is advancing on all fronts, and no longer hesitates to propose its own models or values.
And what about Europe? As usual, inaudible and the “good schoolboy”. Almost half of all European commissioners will be in Davos, but not their president, nor the president of the European Council. The delegation will be led by the talented but discreet vice-president of the commission, Frans Timmermans. A few more national leaders will be there, but few headliners.
Europe is sidelined not by a lack of resources or policies, but by an absence of a clear vision, of a clear compass; by the absence of a powerful voice highlighting that the continent’s values are stronger than ever and that it still plays a major role in the world, a European Union and nations that clearly show the path they want to trace to their citizens and the whole world.
Whether we like it or not, the G2 – with China on the offensive and the United States in retreat – is a reality.
André Loesekrug-Pietri is the founder and managing partner of ACAPITAL investment funds @andrepietri