(Yicai Global) Jan. 17 -- CBN Daily: Why did you choose ‘Enhancing Cooperation in a Fractured World’ as your theme for the 2018 annual economic forum?
David Aikman: We always try to choose a theme for our annual meeting that’s relevant and timely, and right now many leaders are observing that we are living in a fractured world. Not only because of increased tensions and geostrategic competition, but also within individual states -- with society feeling fractured and challenged by income equalities or a breakdown in social norms and values.
It really feels like we’re dealing with a different context, which needs special focus. I’m happy to say that there are some bright spots. There are ways in which the world is cooperating around shared interests, such as climate change, or working on sustainable development goals. But we need more of that international collaboration in the face of this increasingly fractured world.
CBN Daily:: Speaking of a ‘fractured world,’ US President Donald Trump is one of the causes of this, but he has opted to attend the Davos World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 this year. Did he receive an invitation from you, or decide on his own initiative?
Aikman: We invited all of the G7 and G20 leaders because we feel it’s really important at the beginning of the year for leaders to outline their agenda and plans for the year. Provided that leaders are willing to come and engage, not only give a speech, but also participate in workshops and dialogue with other leaders from around the world, we welcome their participation. I have to say that Donald Trump’s participation, even if some of his policies, like ‘America first,’ may seem very nationalistic, the fact that he’s coming to Davos and willing to engage with the international community and share views is a very positive sign.
CBN Daily: Trump is following in Bill Clinton’s footsteps as only the second US president to attend the Davos Forum. After an 18-year hiatus, a US president is once again appearing at Davos. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said Trump is eager to introduce the opportunities of his America First policy to the leaders of other nations, and expects to promote his corresponding policies to bolster US industry, commerce and employment. Against this setting, what are you anticipating Trump will say
Aikman: As with all the leaders, we don’t know exactly what they’re going to say. But I think participants are looking forward to really hearing from him directly -- what his policies mean for the rest of the world.
I think there’s quite a lot of coverage and exposure in the United States, but I think international leaders are still trying to figure out the ramifications of America’s new strategy, and this is very similar when we have different leaders from around the world coming and sharing their views. We have, for example, Narendra Modi coming from India. People are quite keen to hear about the incredible transformation that’s taking place in the Indian economy.
Every time we have the privilege of having these leaders in Davos, it’s a chance for them to really have dialogue with the world around their key policies.
CBN Daily: Information has been reported that 7 cabinet heads will also accompany Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and that the throng of US representatives throughout will form a 1,500-strong retinue. Can you therefore tell us which nation you reckon will detail the largest contingent?
Aikman: I’m pretty sure it would be the United States right now. Whenever we have an American president or vice president, it’s a very large delegation.
CBN Daily: China’s Foreign Ministry previously announced that Liu He, a member of the CPC Central Committee’s Political Bureau and director of the office of the Central Financial Group will be present from the 22 to the 25 at Davos, Switzerland 2018 economic forum. You previously indicated that many people are looking forward to seeing him. What message do you expect China to enunciate at Davos?
Aikman: I must say the participants’ interest in hearing from Liu He is very high. We’ve already had many requests for meetings. I think in China’s new era, after the 19th Party Congress, business leaders and government leaders from around the world are trying to understand what it means in terms of China’s economic policy. In terms of China’s foreign policy. We’ve had 40 years of reform and opening up, what is the next phase going to look like? I think people are particularly keen to hear from him, given his leading role in understanding the economy and the financial sector. They’re keen to really hear his views and try to get a better insight into how they should be thinking about China in the future.
CBN Daily: What do you think will be the highlights of China’s participation?
Aikman: It’s a record-breaking year. We have 136 participants. That’s more than we’ve ever had in the past and almost double say, the participation of a country like Japan or Korea. It really represents a significant step forward and increase in terms of the participation, which really reflects China’s growing role and growing confidence in international affairs. I think that’s very exciting from our perspective and I also think some of the topics that we’ll be talking about are super relevant to China’s future, particularly around some of the technology areas where China has said it wants to play a leading role in. I think there will be a great opportunity for leaders from both the public sector and private sector to take home valuable insights.
CBN Daily: This forum will convene over 400 meetings centered on promoting sustainable economic development and addressing the four major themes of diversity of ideas, a multi-polarization of the world’s forces, elimination of social discord and the crafting of a flexible system of technical governance. With such a weighty agenda, what do you think will deserve the most attention coming from China’s leaders and top entrepreneurs?
Aikman: I think the ones really not to miss are the ones around ‘agile governance.’ This I think is a particularly interesting topic for China because we’re seeing with many of these new technologies, like artificial intelligence and blockchain, how the regulations that we have in place really aren’t fit for purpose. We don’t know how to encourage innovation and the best of these technologies while also protection society. We have a whole series around these topics and I think these are strategic industries for China, where it can embrace a fourth industrial revolution and leapfrog over other countries. These kinds of topics would be particularly relevant for Chinese leaders.
We try to make the World Economic Forum annual meeting as open and accessible as possible both through televised broadcast sessions, where we have a number of collaborations with leading media outlets, and also live streaming -- over the internet from different rooms. We also have something called the open forum where we open up sessions to the general public, who can come in and listen to panels. It’s all part of our effort to show people the way in which the different stakeholders are coming together and trying to work on positive solutions.
CBN Daily: The Davos World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 has a segment devoted to the One Belt, One Road initiative. What considerations gave rise to this?
Aikman: From our perspective, the Belt and Road Initiative is really unique. For me it represents a 21st century solution because it’s a platform, and we’ve seen in technology and the economy that platform companies do really well.
This is the first time we’re seeing a platform philosophy applied to global or regional governance, so the Belt and Road is something on which all countries along the route can bring in their projects so we have a collection of goods. From a governance perspective, it’s really fascinating as China has an important role, but it said it wants to see different models of development and wants to see the needs of the individual countries also respected.
For an organization like ours, where we can be particularly helpful is around the public-private partnerships that are required. The infrastructure needs, for example along the Belt and Road, cannot be met just by government funding alone. You need the private sector, you need the large pension reserves or sovereign wealth funds from other countries. It’s really a public-private cooperation and we can do that in a way that’s more sustainable for the environment. There’s greater inclusivity and economic benefits for all parties. It’s not just a one-way road into or out of China, but a way for companies to cooperate with China domestically. So we see a lot of potential here and I think organizations like ours can help keep it open and get the best outcome for all parties.