GENEVA (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has forced the annual meeting of world leaders, business leaders and other heavyweights at the World Economic Forum to go virtual for the second straight year, but organizers still hope to catapult the world thinking about the future with a reduced online version this week.
Thegathering, an online alternative to the event usually held in the Swiss ski town of Davos, will include speeches from leaders of countries including China, India, Israel, Japan and Germany, as well as tables rounds with figures from business, government and philanthropy like Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, who will speak about COVID-19, and Bill Gates and John Kerry, who are expected to discuss climate change .
Organizers are still hopeful their plans for a larger in-person gathering can go ahead this summer. Until then, here are five things to watch for at next week’s online event:
CHINA IS GREAT
President Xi Jinping, who hasn’t left China since the outbreak of the coronavirus in early 2020, will be teleported – just like last year – as perhaps the headliner of the event.
He traditionally uses appearances at international gatherings like Davos to call for cooperation to fight climate change and the coronavirus and lambast what Beijing sees as US efforts to curb China’s rise and dominate global governance.
In a speech on Monday, Xi may well again tout changes that Beijing says are opening up the state-dominated economy and dismiss complaints that he wants to detach from international trade. His comments reflect the ruling Communist Party’s desire for global influence to match China’s status as the world’s second largest economy.
Keep an eye out for any mention of self-governing Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory and has threatened to attack, and claims the South and East China Seas or parts of the Himalayas, which have stoked tensions with his neighbors.
One such neighbor with strained ties to China is India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also speaking virtually on Monday.
During the 8-year tenure of Modi, the star of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, India has seen an upsurge in attacks on the Muslim minority. India’s political parties are gearing up for state elections, just two months after Modi’s government made a rare retreat on a farm reform bill that drew huge protests from farmers.
The campaign drew crowds of tens of thousands, even as the omicron variant, as elsewhere, led to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
HOPENING FOR A POST-COVID WORLD
Impossible for the Davos public to miss the health crisis which has upset its plans for two years.
The pandemic is headlined on Monday, with Fauci and the CEO of vaccine maker Moderna joining a roundtable discussing the next stage for COVID-19, which has taken several big turns as the omicron variant sweeps the world. .
On Tuesday, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is sure to promote his oft-repeated call for greater vaccine equity during a panel on the topic. Many developing countries lag far behind their wealthy counterparts in access to vaccines. The WHO says greater vaccine equity can help prevent the emergence of worrisome, highly transmissible variants like omicron.
Climate change and energy – as well as a regional look at Latin America – headline Wednesday, with a speech from Saudi Arabia’s energy minister and a look at how the world is coming out of its dependence on fossil fuels. Kerry, the special climate envoy under US President Joe Biden, joins Davos stalwart Gates – recent author of ‘How to Avoid Climate Catastrophe’ – on a panel on climate innovation.
TECHNOLOGY, TRADE AND ECONOMY
True to its name, the economic forum never strays from the business world. The week ends with discussions on issues such as capitalism for a sustainable future, trade in a time of strained global supply chains, and how government actions are needed to produce a sustainable and equitable recovery after the pandemic.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had the final say on Friday with a talk at the virtual forum, where she has the opportunity to promote President Joe Biden’s plans to re-engage globally to prevent further environmental disasters . Amid the pandemic and rapidly rising inflation, the former Federal Reserve chair could also address financial recovery efforts, the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure act and her support for a worldwide minimum corporate tax accepted by more than 130 countries.
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing and Fatima Hussein in Washington contributed.
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