In Davos, Xi makes case for Chinese leadership role

Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:55pm EST
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By Noah Barkin and Elizabeth Piper

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping offered a vigorous defense of globalization on Tuesday, pushing back against the "America First" rhetoric of incoming U.S. president Donald Trump and signaling Beijing's desire to play a bigger role on the global stage.

Xi's speech to political leaders, CEOs and bankers at the World Economic Forum in Davos was a first by a Chinese leader and marked a possible shift in the global political landscape as western democracies struggle with the rise of populist nationalism.

China, a one-party communist state that maintains tough restrictions on foreign investment, would seem an unlikely champion of free markets at an event that has become synonymous with global capitalism.

But with Trump promising a more protectionist, insular approach and Europe preoccupied with its own problems, from Brexit to terror attacks, China sees an opportunity to fill what could become a vacuum in global economic leadership.

Speaking before a vast audience that included U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Xi likened protectionism to "locking oneself in a dark room" and cutting off all "light and air".

"No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war," Xi said in the nearly hour-long speech.

Real estate mogul and former reality TV star Trump, who will be inaugurated as U.S. president on Friday, campaigned on a promise to confront China more aggressively on trade and renegotiate or ditch multilateral trade agreements.

His entourage has accused China of waging economic war against the United States.   Continued...

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 17, 2017.  REUTERS/Ruben Sprich