DAVOS 2011: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum opens in Davos

Stephen Beard Jan 26, 2011
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DAVOS 2011: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum opens in Davos

Stephen Beard Jan 26, 2011
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STACEY VANEK SMITH: The World Economic Forum opened in Davos this morning, with dignitaries from all over the world arriving in the small Swiss town to talk free markets and economic recovery — hopefully. This year, a record number of attendees from emerging markets will be at the summit — including the largest ever delegation from China.

Joining us now to talk Davos is our European correspondent Stephen Beard. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Stacey.

SMITH: Stephen, why are the Chinese at Davos in such big numbers this year?

BEARD: Well, it’s a good question because Davos after all is all about free market capitalism. And here you’ve got China with its Communist government and its state controlled capitalism. But Davos is a showcase first and foremost for the rich and powerful, and Professor Chris Rowley from Cass Business School says the Chinese want to have a major presence in Davos to show off their economic power.

CHRIS ROWLEY: They feel they need to be taken seriously as a world player. It’s not just the sweatshop of the world that you think — thousands of cheap t-shirts. They see themselves as an important economic entity in their own right. So it’s to reflect that glory almost.

Interestingly, fewer American politicians and business people are expected in Davos this year because of the worry that when there are hard times and high unemployment back home it may not look too good to be partying in a Swiss ski resort.

SMITH: Right. So is this just a bunch of partying in the Swiss Alps, or does anything productive actually happen in Davos these days?

BEARD: Well, you have to wonder when you look at the official agenda — just to give you a taste of it. The title of this whole forum is “Shared Norms for the New Reality.” Whatever that means.

SMITH: It does make me want to go skiing.

BEARD: Yes exactly, and many will. But it cannot be bad for some 35 different leaders from around the world to mingle with these top business people, clever academics and so one. And business pays for this by the way, I mean every business person present has paid at least $70,000 to get their foot in the door. The businesses taking part clearly think it’s worth while.

SMITH: That’s Marketplace’s European correspondent Stephen Beard. Thanks, Stephen.

BEARD: OK Stacey.

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