For a global elite still reeling from the shocks of Donald Trump and Brexit, the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos this month offers a safe harbor. Surprisingly, some also see China as a safe harbor as well. “In a world marked by great uncertainty and volatility, the international community is looking to China,” said Klaus Schwab, the founder of the WEF, in his introduction of China’s Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping.
Xi, who was making his first appearance at the annual gathering, seemed more than delighted at the opportunity to assume the burden. To illustrate the contrast between the modern world’s unprecedented civilizational advances on the one hand, and the terrorism and regional conflict that continue to bedevil its progress on the other, he drew on the WEF’s characteristic patois of enlightened references and generalities: “‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ These are the words used by the English writer Charles Dickens to describe the world after the Industrial Revolution. Today, we also live in a world of contradictions,” he said. Among the other contradictions he hinted at: The United States, long the flag-bearer for globalization, will soon be led by a man who has said he wants to strengthen borders and institute impediments to trade. China, however, which remains technically a communist one-party state, credits globalization with spurring decades of heady growth, “will keep its doors wide open,” Xi said.