Xi Jinping rebuked Donald Trump, positioning himself as champion of globalization

A man of many metaphors.
A man of many metaphors.
Image: World Economic Forum / Manuel Lopez
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Xi Jinping, China’s president, offered a robust defense of the Davos world order, positioning himself as globalization’s most vocal champion, and suggesting the system needed reform, not rebuke.

While never addressing US president-elect Donald Trump by name, Xi directly and negatively responded to many of the policies Trump has espoused: closing the borders, curbing free trade, backing away from globalization.

“Pursuing protection is just like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, so are light and air,” Xi said at the 2017 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”

In the speech, the first ever by a Chinese president at the annual gathering of the global elite, Xi said there was no turning back the tide of globalization: it was not invented by someone, but is the natural outcome of forces propelling humanity forward.

He also said globalization should not be blamed for the world’s woes. The refugee crisis was the result of war and regional conflict: the solution to that is the pursuit of peace and reconciliation. He said you could not even blame the financial crisis on globalization: it was the “excessive chase of profit by financial capital” and too little regulation. “There’s no point in blaming economic globalization; it is simply not the case, and it will not solve the problems.”

Xi’s pep talk was in stark contrast to the deep criticism of the Davos globalization agenda, and the self-questioning evident at the forum itself. “When countering difficulties, we should not complain about ourselves, blame others, lose confidence, or run away from responsibilities. Instead we should join hands and rise to the challenges.”

He offered up a blueprint for how China would embrace globalization, continuing to open itself, pursuing more regulation, and better leveling the playing field for investors. He also acknowledged that China’s model—communist-led—was its own, and there was no one-size fits all.

Xi defended the Paris accords, arguing that protecting the environment was critical to harmony with nature, and society. “All signatories should stick to it rather than walking away from it,” he said, delivering another direct counter to Trump’s anti-climate change stance.

“We should not develop a habit of retreating to the harbor whenever we see a storm because this will never get us to the other shore,” he said, one of many metaphors peppered throughout the speech.