Summer Davos kicks off in China

1,500 government folks, business leaders and technocrats have descended on the Chinese port city of Tianjin for a World Economic Forum conference this week. It’s the conference’s first in-person appearance in four years.

Many smaller economies see this Annual Meeting of the New Champions, aka ‘Summer Davos’, as an opportunity for a bit of that sweet, sweet limelight, which is often dominated by bigger players at regular Davos.

Some of the notable moments so far this year include:

  1. 🇨🇳 Chinese Premier Li Qiang criticising the West’s ‘de-risking’ from China, and urging companies to make their own decisions instead.
  2. 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia sending one of the largest delegations of any country, potentially reflecting its warmer ties with Beijing (though the Saudis often ‘roll deep’ like this).
  3. 🥝 New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins visiting a local store to sample one of the ~1.5 billion kiwifruit his country exports to China each year. These media moments are often aimed at audiences back home (Hipkins faces an election in October).

Intrigue’s take: If you weren’t even aware of a ‘Summer Davos’, you’re not alone. It’s a bit of a ‘Davos lite’ in terms of size, prestige, and profile.

But as with any summit, the real value is often backstage: delegates hold endless meetings, sign deals, and propose new ones. Plus for China, still struggling to kickstart its post-COVID economy, playing host is an opportunity to (again) tell the world that it’s open for business.

Also worth noting:

  • In 2021, Tianjin fell out of the top 10 Chinese cities measured by GDP, having been ranked as high as sixth in 2017.
  • The kiwifruit is native to China (not New Zealand). The principal of an all-girls school brought the first seeds to New Zealand in 1904.
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