Xi Said to Become First Chinese President at Davos Summit

  • Gives Xi platform to tout China’s global economic contribution
  • China seeks larger role in shaping world financial order

Haass: Xi Could Be 'Strong Man of China' for Years

President Xi Jinping will become the first Chinese head of state to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland next month, a person familiar with the trip said, as the country seeks a larger role in shaping the global financial order.

Xi was preparing to take part in the annual gathering of billionaires and political elites in the Alpine resort town of Davos, which is scheduled from Jan. 17-20, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the trip hasn’t yet been announced. Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reported last month that Xi would make a state visit to the Swiss capital of Bern on Jan. 15-16 before traveling to Davos.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that it would make an announcement as soon as the matter had been decided. A spokeswoman for the World Economic Forum declined to comment.

The trip comes as China casts itself as a leading advocate of globalization in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise election as U.S. president last month on an “America First” campaign critical of free-trade deals. Trump is scheduled to be inaugurated in Washington on the final day of the economic forum.

The event will provide a platform for Xi to tout China’s role in the global economy, as he prepares for a key Communist Party gathering next year expected to give him a second term as leader. The president will likely highlight signature projects such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the One Belt, One Road trade-and-infrastructure initiative, which help leverage Chinese economic might into geopolitical clout.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang used the World Economic Forum in 2015 to reassure the international business community about the country’s “new normal” of slower economic growth. His predecessor, Wen Jiabao, attended in 2009, weeks after unveiling a $586 billion stimulus package amid the financial crisis. This year, the Chinese delegation was led by Vice President Li Yuanchao.

— With assistance by Ting Shi, Keith Zhai, and Xiaoqing Pi

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