Bring the World Economic Forum to China — Klaus Schwab on China’s Development
Published: Aug 04, 2021 02:16 PM
In the summer of 2007, the World Economic Forum (WEF) came all the way from Davos, Switzerland, where its winter annual meetings are held, to Dalian, a coastal city in China. This renowned gathering of world business leaders had its first summer session in the East of the world from September 6 to 8.

Xi Jinping meeting with WEF Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab

Xi Jinping meeting with WEF Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab

In 1978, Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, with his keen perception and insight, predicted that huge changes would take place in China. He later recalled that he was sure that China would play a vital role on the world stage when he read about Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up policy in 1978. In the same year, he extended an invitation to Deng Xiaoping to the WEF. Deng didn't attend himself, but he sent a high-level delegation headed by Qian Junrui, Director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, to the 1979 Annual Meeting. Three months later, Dr. Schwab visited Beijing with a European business delegation that included 20 CEOs. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing and established contact. From then on, China has never been absent from the Davos meetings.

In the following decades, Dr. Schwab has worked actively for closer cooperation between the WEF and China and witnessed China's journey of reform and opening-up.

Over the past four decades, the WEF has maintained good cooperation with China. Chinese leaders attended multiple forum meetings and delivered speeches. Many successful Chinese business leaders have participated in the forum and found inspiration from it.

In 2005, Dr. Schwab proposed the idea of a Summer Davos in China, in addition to the regular annual meeting in the small Swiss town of Davos. After the decision was made, he went through many cities in China and finally picked Dalian and Tianjin as the host cities. When standing in a temporary office in Dalian World Expo Center, with a picturesque view of the sea and mountains in front of him, Dr. Schwab was amazed by the great changes in China, the venues that are "bigger, bigger and bigger" than those in Davos, and the "fantastic" facilities.

With the joint efforts of China and the WEF, the first Annual Meeting of the New Champions was held in Dalian in 2007. Since then, Tianjin and Dalian would take turns to host the meeting. As Dr. Schwab said, the WEF would have two pillars: the Winter Davos and the Summer Davos. The WEF planned to make the Summer Davos a major international conference as big and influential as the Winter Davos, with a focus on internationalization, a common concern of growth companies across the world.

As the Executive Chairman of the WEF, Dr. Schwab has a keen insight into and personal experience of the changes in the world economic landscape. The rapid growth of China and other emerging economies and the increasing multipolarity in the global economy have brought him to China again and again for new inspirations and potential breakthroughs for the Forum.

Dr. Schwab said in an interview that China has kept sustained, high-speed economic growth for the past 30 years and has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. He said with his hands pointing upward that China has grown from a backward economy to a leading country, that instead of fixing its eyes on the West, the WEF needs to focus more on the East in order to gain impetus from China's rapid growth. According to him, after years of development, the WEF has turned to emerging economies and growth companies, and China has become one of the new champions. He believes that China is a responsible major country that can shoulder more global responsibilities.

Klaus Schwab being interviewed by Xinhua News Agency

Klaus Schwab being interviewed by Xinhua News Agency

In 2017, at the invitation of Dr. Schwab, President Xi Jinping attended the Opening Session of the WEF Annual Meeting and delivered a keynote speech entitled "Jointly Shoulder Responsibility of Our Times, Promote Global Growth." His speech sent a strong message of supporting economic globalization, receiving enthusiastic response from the international community. China's status and role in global economic governance once again became the center of attention. After President Xi's speech, Dr. Schwab came to the podium and gave passionate comments. He said that President Xi's attendance and speech were of tremendous historical significance and they filled us with confidence for the future. He said that "China would continue to be an important force in the global economy as a driving force." Quoting President Xi's ideas of "a community with a shared future for mankind" and the "Chinese Dream," Dr. Schwab said that we are living in a global, interdependent world and have a common destiny as mankind, that President Xi's speech was crucial for building an innovative, open, fair and inclusive society, and that the Chinese Dream is connected with the global dream. His conclusion that President Xi's speech "brought us some sunshine" received thunderous applause from the audience.

Dr. Schwab is deeply drawn to Chinese culture. He has sent congratulations to the Chinese people on several Spring Festivals to wish the country prosperity and the people happiness. He is also an antique collector with a sizable collection of ancient books from the 13th to the 17th century. He expressed his wish once to have an ancient Chinese book in the near future because he did not have one in his collection, even though printing is a Chinese invention.

On December 10, 2018, Dr. Schwab was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal. After receiving the medal, he said that as China further integrates with the world, the WEF will continue to work with China to make greater contributions to building a harmonious society and a community with a shared future for mankind featuring peace, prosperity and mutual understanding.