President Xi Jinping attends the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 with Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the forum, in Davos, Switzerland, on January 17 (XINHUA)
For the first time, China's top leader addressed global issues in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where political and business elites from across the planet gathered at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the opening session of the event on January 17, a key part of his state visit to Switzerland at the beginning of this year.
The WEF made Responsive and Responsible Leadership this year's theme. In Xi's keynote speech in Davos, he called on the world to "jointly shoulder responsibility of our times and promote global growth."
This year’s Davos forum embraced the largest ever Chinese delegation since the Chinese Government first took part in 1979.
"The Chinese president's Davos attendance shows China's active stance in participating in global governance at the elite forum platform," Peng Zhiwei, associate professor and Director of the Department of International Economics and Trade at Nankai University in Tianjin, said.
According to Peng, Xi's presence at the Davos forum is of great significance to the world given the current wave of populism in many developed economies.
A cargo train from the China (Tianjin) Pilot Free Trade Zone in the northern port city of Tianjin ready to depart to Minsk, Belarus, on November 21, 2016 (XINHUA)
Historically, the West initiated economic globalization and benefited from the course. Yet now, some blame this trend for domestic problems. The anti-globalization voice is growing louder than ever in the West, with the world economy under threat from isolationism and protectionism. For instance, the newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to impose high tariffs on Chinese imports during his presidential campaign in a typical gesture of trade protectionism.
In Davos, Xi illustrated the importance of economic openness, pointing out that "many of the problems troubling the world are not caused by economic globalization."
To counter such problems, "we should strike a balance between efficiency and equity to ensure that different countries, different social strata and different groups of people all share in the benefits of economic globalization," Xi suggested.
Xu Hongcai, Deputy Chief Economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, echoed the president's call, stressing that trade protectionism will benefit no one.
"Trump promises to revive U.S. industry. He is very likely to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy, including tax cuts and investment increases in infrastructure construction. This will intensify the U.S. balance of payments deficit. Thus, the U.S. market needs foreign investment, including China's," Xu said.
Xi used an appropriate metaphor to depict trade protectionism in his speech in Davos, "Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war."
China's evolving role
In Davos, President Xi reiterated China's willingness to share the great opportunities presented by its development with other countries.
Despite a fragile global situation, the Chinese economy grew 6.7 percent year on year in 2016, still one of the highest in the world, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics. China remained the top engine of global growth last year by contributing 33.2 percent of the world's economic expansion.
China has been the world's largest cargo trader for four consecutive years as well as the globe's largest exporter and second largest importer. China has opened 104 of its 160 services sectors to foreign investors according to its membership commitment to the World Trade Organization.
"China provides the world with a huge market, so other economies have benefited from China's economic development," Zhao Ping, Research Director at the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said.
Zhao believes that China will play a bigger role in advocating free trade and participating in reform of global governance infrastructure.
"This is a very important speech at an important moment. We're living in a global, independent world and we cannot recreate artificial borders. Globalization is a win-win situation and we have a common destiny as humankind."
Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum
"He [President Xi Jinping] persuaded the world to persist with free trade rather than reverting to protectionism for the long-term benefit of all nations."
Honson To, Chairman of KPMG China
"I think China as such a vital part of world economy now has that kind of strong message sent by President Xi, which is hugely positive, particularly when the world is fearing the routes towards isolationism today."
Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of Bahrain Economic Development Board