One of the reasons behind the first ever visit by a Chinese president to next week's Davos boondoggle is that, as reported last week, president Xi was open to a meeting with US president-elect Donald Trump’s team, if clearly not the president-elect himself, who will be far busier on January 20 - the day the World Economic Forum in Davos ends - getting inaugurated.
“China has good contacts with the present US government, and also has a smooth communication channel with Trump’s team,” deputy foreign minister Li Baodong said on Wednesday. Li was responding to a query on the possibility of a meeting between President Xi Jinping and Trump’s team members when they attend the World Economic Forum in Davos from January 17 to 20, according to SCMP.
However, while the world's elite eats "$43 Hot Dogs; $47 Burgers And $55 Caesar Salads", Xi will have to do without a close encounter with members of Trump's, because as Bloomberg reports, "Trump won’t send an official representative to the annual gathering of the world’s economic elite in Davos, taking place next week in the days leading up to his inauguration." The stated reason by a senior member of Trump’s transition team is that "the president-elect thought it would betray his populist-fueled movement to have a presence at the high-powered annual gathering in the Swiss Alps."
During the campaign Trump labeled his opponent Hillary Clinton, as “a globalist” and portrayed himself as a champion for the working class fighting an unfair economic system. Since the election, Trump, who will be the nation’s first billionaire president, has nominated for his Cabinet two billionaires and about a dozen millionaires.
And yet, the gathering of millionaires, billionaires, political leaders and celebrities "represents the power structure that fueled the populist anger that helped Trump win the election", said the person, who Bloomberg said asked for anonymity to discuss the matter. Amusingly, it also leads to such Bloomberg articles as "Davos Wonders If It’s Part of the Problem" (spoiler alert: yes). Additionally, former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, a regular attendee in the past, told the group he would skip 2017 after being named in December to head the National Economic Council. Other top Trump appointees will also pass up the forum.
And yet, there are several reasons to be just a little skeptical of Trump's adherence to his "populist-fueled movement." One is tweets like the following:
Trump now at 6 Goldman appointees:— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) January 12, 2017
Bannon – Sr. Adviser
Scaramucci – Adviser
Mnuchin – Treasury
Powell – Counselor
Cohn – NEC
Clayton – SEC https://t.co/VmIYQdd8Y2
Another is that while no Trump member will be there officially, unofficially at least two people from Trump's immediate orbit will be dancing with the DJs late in the night. One is SkyBridge's Anthony Scaramucci, who is planning to travel to Davos.The early backer of Trump’s campaign, Scaramucci was named on Thursday as an assistant to the president.
Scaramucci, who has attended the forum several times, made plans before being selected for the White House team and is traveling in an unofficial capacity, said Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks. The forum schedule lists him on a Jan. 17 panel that will cover “the priorities, challenges and opportunities for the incoming government of the United States,” and identifies him as an executive member of Trump’s transition team.
“Anthony Scaramucci has been a long-standing participant at the annual meeting, and as such has been registered to attend since last spring,” Paul Smyke, head of the North America World Economic Forum, said in a statement. Scaramucci will depart in time to attend Trump’s swearing-in on Jan. 20.
Additionally, Trump's close political adviser Rebekah Mercer is also registered to attend. A major Republican donor, Mercer is a member of Trump’s transition team and has been influential in helping to hire senior staff, but doesn’t have an official role in the incoming administration, opting to work behind the scenes. Rebekah is, of course, wife of Bob Mercer, co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, which as we profiled last August was "perfectly hedged" between Mercer, who funded and spearheded the Trump campaign on one hand, and RenTec's chain-smoking billionaire founder Jim Simons, who together with George Soros, was one of the most generous sponsors of the Clinton campaign.
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Meanwhile, as the Trump team stays away, if only "officially", China's Xi is set to become the first Chinese president to attend the forum, bringing with him a contingent of China’s wealthiest executives. China is casting itself as an advocate of globalization, in contrast to Trump’s “America First” platform critical of free-trade deals. According to Reuters, during his visit, Xi Jinping will promote "inclusive globalization" and will warn that populist approaches can lead to "war and poverty."
Jiang Jianguo, head of the State Council Information Office, told a symposium hosted by the World Trade Organization in Geneva that President Xi would go to Davos to push for development, cooperation and economic globalization in order to build "a human community with shared destiny." "With the rise of populism, protectionism, and nativism, the world has come to a historic crossroad where one road leads to war, poverty, confrontation and domination while the other road leads to peace, development, cooperation and win-win solutions," Jiang said.
Xi will join about 3,000 others, who will include U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, outgoing U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and South African President Jacob Zuma. The forum wraps up on Trump’s Inauguration Day.
This year's forum is expected to be dominated by discussion of a surge in public hostility toward globalization and the rise of Trump, whose tough talk on trade, including promises of tariffs against China and Mexico, helped win him the White House. Previously, we laid out the top risks envisioned by the WEF in 2017, and which will be topic of much discussion by those present. They are summarized in the chart below.