William Jones: WEF gathers at a moment of great peril


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William Jones: WEF gathers at a moment of great peril


Source: CGTN Published: 2024-01-15

The theme for this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting 2024 in Davos, Switzerland, is 'Building Trust.' Not a bad choice in a world in which the lack of trust between nations is probably greater than ever. Two major military conflicts, one in the heart of Europe, and one in the Middle East, are perhaps the deadliest ones in recent history, and neither of which seem to have any clear-cut 'exit strategy.' In many instances, the lack of political trust can often be bridged through a certain amount of economic trust, using trade and investment to overcome some of the geopolitical differences.

Yet, here too a lack of trust is also clearly evident, in the attempt by countries to 'reroute supply chains,' and to neglect traditional ones that have brought prosperity to nations . This is in conjunction with the increased use of sanctions and trade restrictions as a political tool. This lack of trust has also become quite evident in the realm of science and technology, again another arena which has traditionally fostered a certain level of trust between nations. But the desire of the U.S. to retain its leadingposition in this area has led to drastic restrictions in the export of high-technology products like semiconductors.

The WEF has at times been the platform to bring parties together to help mediate, if not resolve, conflicts in the economic and political arena. It is a big question whether it will be able to accomplish any useful goals in that respect under current world conditions. Many of the present political conflicts will be highlighted at the Forum.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy will again be addressing the conference about his 'peace plan' and his message will again be clear: to continue the conflict in Ukraine until Russian forces have been withdrawn. Such a maximalist peace plan which only threatens greater loss of life amid a stalematehas no possibility of gaining traction. Judging from the speakers' list, it is doubtful if any major Russian political figure will be addressing the event. Perhaps they have not been invited or even given it any consideration what with the Western 'narrative' of the conflict tending to dominate the conference.

The other major conflict in the world, the Israeli attacks in Gaza, which have already killed over 20,000 people, will no doubt get something of a hearing given the participation of some major Arab leaders. Despite the death toll in Gaza, no one expects any general condemnation of Israeli actions given the important presence of the U.S., which continues to provide backing for Israeli actions.

While the economic discussions may be less contentious, the differences here will no doubt also come into focus. The international financial elites, who are most prominent at this annual Swiss event, will talk about free trade and open borders and the end to restrictions and trade barriers. But the fundamental instability in the present global financial structures will unfortunately be left unaddressed.

The Congress Center of Alpine Resort ahead of the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, December 30, 2023. /CFP

Representatives from the Global South, who will also have a presence at Davos, will no doubt raise their concerns with the way the present financial system is functioning, or malfunctioning, and there may be a discussion on the end of the dominance of the dollar for international transactions by many nations.

While Chinese Premier Li Qiang will highly likely reiterate China's commitment to continued opening up to investment and trade, he may also underline the importance of Chinese President Xi Jinping's call for the Global Development Initiative, which has already been welcomed by the United Nations. President Xi's concept of a global community of shared future will be strongly supported by the representatives of the developing countries present.

The WEF will also be an opportunity for China to consolidate ties with some of the European countries, who have begun to have second thoughts about the U.S. push to divide the world into quarreling blocs. A return to equality between sovereign nations is again coming to the fore as a desirable state of affairs, as regional 'alliances' tend to break down under the economic downturn.

One cannot, however, overemphasize the significance of this annual event in Switzerland. It is primarily a forum for the international financial and economic interests, which provide the economic basis for the influence of the Western nations in the world economy. It is an important gathering where one can discuss the major issues facing the world, but it is not the type of gathering that can resolve any of the problems.

Whatever positive ideas are voiced at the WEF, they will no doubt be brought to bear in other venues, like the G20 or the BRICS, where there is more support and a much greater desire for acting upon them.

William Jones, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, was the White House correspondent for EIR News Service and is a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.