Reflections on President Xi’s visit to Switzerland

Xi Jinping’s presence in the 2017 World Economic Forum was unequivocally the highlight of the

Xi Jinping’s presence in the 2017 World Economic Forum was unequivocally the highlight of the prestigious annual gathering in Davos not only for its unprecedentedness as the first Chinese President attended the meeting but also for the message he delivered. In an hour-long speech for the Davos opening plenary, Xi championed the merits of globalisation and exemplified the theme of the 47th WEF annual meeting - Responsive and Responsible leadership. The appeal to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, as translated from the widely used term in Chinese, imbues throughout his speech.

In contrast to most Chinese politicians who are often perceived as inscrutable by the West, Xi exuded an air of friendliness and tranquillity as he started the speech by complimenting the small but beautiful town Davos and humorously coining the WEF meeting as the Schwab-economics. Xi continued in a tone that changed almost homely when he said, “as you know all, in 10 days it would be the Lunar Chinese New Year – the most important festival celebrated by the Chinese people with visits of family, friends and loved ones through which we strengthen our bond and friendship. This time my wife and I, and the member of our Chinese delegation are coming to Davos to pay our respect and send our New Year greetings to Switzerland and the world”.

China is a friend

The intention of the message to the world is obvious: China is a friend! The most important man in China is demonstrating it with the analogy of the most important Chinese festival customs. Such stand makes the headline catching but ever declining momentum of debates such as China -friend or foe, China - opportunity or threat rather obsolete. It is not conflicts of interests which exist in any relationship at institutional and international level that determine a nation as a friend or foe but rather than the willingness to cooperate in solving any conflicts as partners which is what slogan of WEF stands for: committed to improving the state of the world.

On 20th January 2017, the last day of the WEF, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. The two leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world share some stunning similarities and stark differences.  Xi’s Chinese Dream and Trump’s Make American Great Again are two slogans with the same vision. People, a word mentioned repeatedly by both leaders in their respective speech, are the crux of this shared vision which aims to inspire people in uniting together and marching forward to restore the greatness of their country.

China's leadership role in global governance

On global and economic issues the two leaders seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum at the first glance. “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war”, affirmed by Xi in his speech, a philosophy echoes with the essence of Sun Zi’s supreme Art of war – true victory is to win without fighting. Reality will prove the truth of these words. In any case the even greater challenge remains internal. How can China exercise its leadership role in global governance which the US has traditionally exerted dominance and until very recently an uncharted territory for China? Such a question calls for more than serious discourse by policy makers and academics, and undoubtedly of immense relevance to a top Chinese business school renowned for its education on leadership and for leaders.

In addressing the sluggish global economy, Xi attributed three critical issues as the root cause: the lack of robust driving forces for global growth, inadequate global economic governance and uneven global development. In proposing actions to address these issues, a dynamic and innovation-driven growth model was highlighted as the first measure, with developing a model of open and win-win cooperation underpinned by an inter-connected and well-coordinated approach as the second.

How to take inspiration from XI’s proposed actions

The food for thought for the Zurich Institute of Business Education, CEIBS Zurich campus, is how we can take inspiration from XI’s proposed actions and contribute in this sphere.  

On the topic of innovation, CEIBS Zurich campus is proud to announce that we regularly host Study Tours, which consist mostly of Chinese CEOs and senior executives who are the shakers and movers in China’s business world, on innovation and Industry 4.0 in Europe. These study tours provide participants with insights into not only the cutting-edge theories and ideas but also the invaluable opportunities to experience first hand the practical and operational knowhow with European company visits and industry exchange.

On the theme win-win cooperation, the CEIBS Europe Forum 2016 hosted in four cities Zurich, Munich, Paris and London epitomised the success of an internationally connected and well-coordinated approach. The forum, which was attended by ambassadors, CEIBS deans and leading faculties, European companies, partners, academics and private individuals actively engaged in Sino-European business or affairs, received extraordinary reception from all participants. The Zurich Institute of Business Education, as the newly established European presence of CEIBS, is committed to contributing in making the forum even more successful.

As stated by Dean Prof Ding in one of his interviews in Davos with Swiss TV SRF, “China's attitude toward globalization and free trade issues has attracted the attention of the world”. Indeed, all eyes on China! Xi’s quote of Charles Dickens’ words, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, a contradiction that resonates perfectly with the harmony of the Taoism’s Yin and Yang -opportunities and challenges are to be equally embraced.


Philip Boksberger
CEO Zurich Institute of Business Education