Xi to be first Chinese leader to attend Davos World Economic Forum

BEIJING/GENEVA (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping this month will become the first Chinese head of state to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, which this year will dwell on the rising public anger with globalization and the coming U.S. presidency of Donald Trump.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks to Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba (not pictured) during a meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Fred Dufour/Pool

Xi will take centre stage at the Jan. 17-20 forum with China presenting itself as a champion of globalization.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday confirmed Xi’s widely expected attendance at the annual gathering of global political leaders, CEOs and celebrities in the Swiss Alps.

Davos will end just as Trump takes office, having won the White House in part with promises to pull the United States out of international trade deals and hike tariffs against China and Mexico in a protectionist campaign he says will help bring back industries and jobs to America.

WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab said he expected Xi to show how China would take a “responsive and responsible leadership role” in global affairs at a turning point in history, with the world needing new concepts to face the future.

“Every simplified approach to deal with the complex global agenda is condemned to fail. We cannot have just populist solutions,” Schwab told a news conference in Geneva, referring to the rising anti-globalization tide epitomized by Trump’s victory and Britain’s vote last year to exit the European Union.

The Chinese president will be in Switzerland from Jan. 15-18 for a state visit and to attend the Davos meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

He will also visit the United Nations offices in Geneva, and the offices of the World Health Organization and the International Olympic Committee, Lu said.

Other global leaders, including WEF regular German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will not be in Davos this year.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was also absent from the line-up published on Tuesday, but there were many presidents, prime ministers and central bankers among the 3,000 participants, along with 1,800 executives from 1,000 companies.

The United States will be represented by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, days before they leave office, and “someone from the transition team representing the new (Trump) administration”, Schwab said.

Xi led a forum of Asia-Pacific leaders in Peru in November in vowing to fight protectionism, just days after Trump won the U.S. election having pledged to pull out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Foreign businesses in China, however, have long complained about a lack of market access and protectionist Chinese policies. These include a Made in China 2025 plan that calls for a progressive increase in domestic components in sectors such as advanced information technology and robotics.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Tom Miles; writing by Michael Martina and Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich