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Globalisation’s new spokesman(Hindu)

President Xi Jinping’s message to the World Economic Forum in Davos was timely and perhaps visionary as well, in this time of extraordinary global uncertainty. It is no surprise if, as in the case of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s potential leadership of the Western alliance, questions have arisen at this juncture about Mr. Xi’s willingness to take up cudgels on behalf of broader internationalism and against the rising tide of inward-looking nationalism. His address at the opening plenary before captains of business and industry could not have been a more robust and reassuring defence of the current world economic order, perceived to be at its most fragile in the post-War era with the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President. Foremost is Mr. Xi’s caution against attempts to prevent the free flow of goods, services, capital and people as running counter to the historical trend. It is tempting to interpret this remark as a pointed rebuke to growing calls for economic protectionism at a time when a slump in world trade underpins slow economic growth. Not to be missed also is the categorical support he expressed for the swift enforcement of the Paris accord on climate change. Mr. Xi reiterated the call for a reform of global economic governance structures, to reflect the contribution of the emerging and developing countries. His plea for more inclusive representation is in contrast to the unprecedented attacks mounted against post-War institutions in the same countries that crafted their original architecture.

Mr. Xi fundamentally rejected the stance that seeks to lay the blame for the current challenges at the doorstep of globalisation. The tragic effects of mass migration, he said, have their roots in the recent wars and regional conflicts, rather than in economic globalisation. His diagnosis of Europe’s challenges on this front could not entirely be faulted, even if it is largely true that the developing countries have reaped most of the benefits of economic mobility, rather than having to deal with the difficulties of immigration. There may be arguments over the modes and methods of managing the political fallout from globalisation. But there is no denying the mounting and demonstrable evidence that the post-Cold War era of open economies has brought unprecedented prosperity and income redistribution around the world. Mr. Xi’s case for globalisation is the most forceful such statement by a Chinese leader yet. For long Beijing has been accused of not taking on the burdens of a leadership role commensurate with its economic and strategic power. The changing world order may have left it with no option but to step up to the podium. It also turns the mirror on Beijing, demanding of it a lot more action to back its own words.

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