There they were. In front of the podium with a blue background with the well-known logo of «WEF» (World Economic Forum). Standing. Clapping wildly. It was the opening keynote speech, the highlight of the summit, even of the summits so cleverly organized by Klaus Schwab since 1971, on the alpine peaks of Davos-Klosters. What an audience full of Heads of State and Government, diplomats and senior officials! Also present, academics and experts of greater luster and stature. And above all, above all, clapping relentlessly, the CEOs, knowing that participating in this event confers the rank of a large company (Altenrhein airport, collapsed as on so many occasions, by a swarm of private jets). In front of the lectern, who was exhibiting himself championing the future was none other than Xi Jinping. For the first time a Chinese head of state appeared in person, in this temple of capitalism. And he did it with the aura of pronouncing himself -heir to “everything under the heavens”-.

It was January 2017. The motto of that meeting: Responsive and Responsible Leadership. The US seemed to be shrinking, with Trump bent on discrediting the institution of the American Presidency, a pillar of the liberal order. In the midst of a slowdown in world economic growth, the Chinese president argued for an urgent and courageous response from the powers that be, which he would lead. He recalled China’s long and arduous journey and the 38 years of reform and opening up. Beijing, willing to promote the prosperity of all. He called for the responsible leadership of the international community for the Middle Kingdom. And with similes and allegories, he became a champion of “globalization and free trade” that “have brought enormous advances in health, wealth, education.”

How things have changed. Without the snow, the traditional ice and the Russian oligarchs. For the first time in spring, the edition that takes place these days carries the emblem History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies (History at a turning point: government policies and business strategies). With the president of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, in pole position. The honor slot. They appeared more or less the same and the ovation was closed and unanimous. Except for the representatives of China, who left the room for not joining the tribute. What they heard, however, was not the honey of “friendly globalization” five years ago, but rather a severe leak to the private sector and governments. A symbol of the times, Zelensky focused on his market of 40 million and the project of rebuilding Ukraine after the war. He called for sanctions and cutting all commercial ties with Russia. In this stronghold of the economic leadership of our destinations, the message was particularly emblematic.

A phrase will resound from summit to summit: “History is at a turning point… This is the moment when it is decided whether brute force will dominate the world.” Davos as a metaphor. The world of yesterday, already today.

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