Skip to Content

Best of Davos: Xi Versus Trump

SWITZERLAND-ECONOMY-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-SUMMITSWITZERLAND-ECONOMY-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-SUMMIT
China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech on the opening day of the World Economic Forum, on January 17, 2017 in Davos.Photograph by Fabrice Cofrini—AFP/Getty Images

Globalism and Trump. Trump and globalism, and President Xi.

Say it a few times fast and you get a pretty good sense of a majority of the conversations going on at Davos. Here are the highlights from the World Economic Forum (WEF) so far.

President Xi Saves Davos: With Donald Trump threatening to rip up free trade agreements, and Britain moving closer to a hard Brexit, globalism, and frankly Davos, are not having the best time of it lately. But on day one of Davos, an unlikely hero climbed into the Swiss Alp town. Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a rousing—and at times poetic—defense of the need for international coordination, in everything from trade to environmental issues.

Xi took aim at Trump, who has talked about raising tariffs on China and Mexico. without actually naming him. He warned against a trade war, and called any leader who shrunk from trying to solve the challenges a wimp. Xi got a huge audience—both the 2,000 seat main conference hall and overflow room were packed—and a glowing intro from WEF founder Klaus Schwab.

But the speech also signaled the fact that we are headed into troubled waters for international relations, and some wondered if the Davos crowd had picked the wrong savior. Last year, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said more than three-quarters of its members in a survey felt that foreign businesses were less welcome than before in China because of unfair regulations, unclear laws, and Chinese protectionism. A new survey it released today was no better.

Trump’s Davos Man Gets the Spotlight: Anthony Scaramucci played a second to Xi as the most popular man in Davos on day one. But not all of the spotlight was glowing. Scaramucci, who also announced on Tuesday that he sold his hedge fund business, is the sole member of Trump’s incoming cabinet to attend Davos this year. So Scaramucci took some arrows for his new boss. Scaramucci’s response: The spread between how he sees Trump and how everyone at Davos seems Trump will shrink. Trust him. It may already be shrinking.

 

Biden says goodbye to Russia with no love: Joe Biden wants you to know that the Cold War is back on. On Tuesday morning, the Vice President addressed the World Economic Forum in his last public speech in office. He used much of the time to express his fears about Russia, and his words offered the sense that he believed that, at least when it came to the U.S. election, the real winner was Russia. But Biden said it was not just in the U.S. that Putin was winning. Rather, he said, Russia was out to disrupt democracy, and through hacks and fake news was propping up isolationist politicians around the globe. You’ve been warned.