Political leaders, CEOs and top bankers are making their annual trek up the Swiss Alps to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.
The four-day affair of panel discussions, lunches and cocktail parties will touch on subjects as diverse as terrorism, artificial intelligence and wellness.
“A difficult task”
The global economy is in better shape than it has been in years. Stock markets are booming, oil prices are on the rise again and the risk of a rapid economic slowdown in China has eased.
However, the mood in the picturesque Swiss mountain town is anything but celebratory.
There is acute anxiety about the increasingly toxic political climate. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election in the US, polls are looming in the Netherlands, France, Germany and possibly Italy this year.
Insiders say the main question will be whether leaders can agree on the root causes of public anger – and begin to articulate a response.
A WEF report on global risks, released before Davos, highlighted “diminishing public trust in institutions”.
It noted that rebuilding faith in the political process and leaders would be a “difficult task”.
WEF founder Klaus Schwab says its about listening and understanding;“First, it’s important to listen to the populists, and actually we have several sessions where we deal with these issues.”
“We have also representatives of populist parties here with us. We have to take it seriously. But again, it’s not only to be responsive, you have to be responsible.”
The list of leaders
The list of leaders attending this year’s event is revealing.
Xi Jinping is the star attraction, the first Chinese president ever to attend Davos.
His presence is being seen as a sign of Beijing’s growing influence in the world, at a time when Trump is promising a more insular, “America first” approach.
Europe is preoccupied with its own problems, from Brexit to the threat of terrorism.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will be in Davos.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not.