COVID, China, climate: Online Davos event covers big themes

Organisers remain hopeful they have plans for a larger in-person gathering this summer. Until then, here are five things to watch at next week’s online event:

Chinese looms are huge

President Xi Jinping, who has not left China since the emergence of the coronavirus in early 2020, will be seen as the top man at the event, as he was last year.

He has traditionally appeared at international conferences such as Davos, calling for cooperation on climate change and the coronavirus, and slamming what Beijing sees as U.S. efforts to contain China’s rise and dominate global governance.

In his speech on Monday, Xi will likely once again tout changes Beijing says are opening up the state-led economy and reject complaints that it wants to move away from international trade. His remarks reflect the ruling Communist Party’s desire to rival China’s status as the second-largest economy in global influence.

Watch out for any mention of an autonomous Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory and threatens to attack, as well as claims to the South and East China Sea or parts of the Himalayas, which have fueled tensions with its neighbors.

Modi’s mood

One of the neighbors with strained relations with China is India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi also made a virtual speech on Monday.

Attacks on the Muslim minority in India have risen during the eight-year term of Modi, the star of the Hindu nationalist BJP party. Political parties in India are gearing up for state elections, just two months after Modi’s government in a rare move abandoned an agricultural reform bill that drew an outcry from farmers.

While the omicron variant, like elsewhere, has driven a surge in COVID-19 cases, the event has already drawn crowds in the tens of thousands.

Hope for a post-COVID world

It’s impossible for the Davos crowd to ignore the health crisis that has upended its plans over the past two years.

The pandemic garnered top spotlight on Monday, as Fauci and the CEO of vaccine maker Moderna joined a panel to discuss what’s next for COVID-19, which is set to take hold as omicron variants sweep the world. Several major shifts have taken place.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, is sure to promote his oft-repeated call for greater vaccine equity at a panel on the subject on Tuesday. Many developing countries are still far behind richer nations in access to vaccines. The WHO said greater vaccine equity could help prevent the emergence of worrying, highly transmissible variants such as omicron.


Climate change and energy — and a regional look at Latin America — gained the highest profile on Wednesday, with the Saudi energy minister delivering a speech and exploring how the world can wean itself off fossil fuels. Kerry, the climate envoy under U.S. President Joe Biden, joined Davos stalwart Gates (the latest author of How to Avoid a Climate Catastrophe) for a panel session on climate innovation.

technology, trade and economy

True to its name, the Economic Forum has never been far from the world of business activity. The week ends with discussions on issues such as capitalism for a sustainable future, trade in times of strained global supply chains and how governments can act to achieve a sustainable and equitable recovery post-pandemic.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made her final remarks at a virtual forum on Friday, where she had a chance to promote President Joe Biden’s plan to re-engage globally to prevent a new environmental catastrophe. Amid the pandemic and rapidly rising inflation, the former Fed chair could also be involved in financial recovery efforts, the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure law and her support for a global corporate minimum tax agreed to by more than 130 countries.


Associated Press business writers Joe McDonald in Beijing and Fatima Hussein in Washington contributed.