Contrary to predictions by the Wall Street Journal, this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos has thus far been China-light. No more than two or three sessions are China-centered.
Does it matter? Probably not. China is now raised as a matter of course in almost any discussion here, ranging from trade to renewable energy to global health. Everyone’s trying to understand how China will matter, but not so much thinking about China itself.
A keynote address by Li Keqiang, China’s vice premier, touched a bit on both issues. I found the speech mostly boilerplate – a drawn-out version of “China can best help the world by helping itself.” But others I spoke with found his confidence about the future of China’s economy and his commitment to “work together to address the global financial crisis” reassuring.
The best China-related panel so far, however, featured a discussion of the U.S.-China relationship. A few rather pointed jabs at the United States by some of the Chinese participants – regarding the inability of Americans to save rather than spend, as well as the failure of Americans to understand the Chinese perspective – elicited a rousing response from the American side that the United States wants and needs to cooperate with China but isn’t going to paper over the differences, of which there are a number. The message was loud and clear that the days of Washington playing nice in the (now clearly vain) hopes of getting like treatment are over.
And for those who continue to push the notion of a G-2 – nary a mention here by the Chinese, the Americans or anyone else.