We went to Davos, and here’s what happened


Didn’t have a lazy $25k to attend this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos? We’ve got you covered, dear Intriguer. Our very own Helen Zhang scored an invite and has spent the last week in the Swiss ski resort surrounded by CEOs, world leaders, hangers-on, and oh, snipers. Lots of snipers.

Here are some of the highlights:

Zelensky shuts the place down

Unsurprisingly, the Ukrainian president doesn’t mess around when it comes to his security, and flooded the town with bodyguards during his first in-person Davos appearance.

He used his keynote speech on Tuesday to pitch his peace plan, push for more sanctions on Russia, and encourage investment in rebuilding Ukraine, urging that by “strengthening our economy… we will strengthen your security.” He made no appeal for weaponry, and ended up receiving a big standing ovation.

Zelensky also met world leaders, but was reportedly snubbed by Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Inflation is still a worry

While price rises are cooling, ‘caution’ was still the word of the week. IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva summed up the prevailing wisdom: “Central banks should not tighten prematurely because then they may lose the victory that is now in their hands”. We did a deep dive (or at least a snorkel?) on Wednesday.

Iran

Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also attended this year’s WEF forum and told attendees, “all the fronts will remain active” until Israel ceases its offensive in Gaza. We did a deep dive (or at least a wade?) into Iran yesterday.

China 

Premier Li Qiang captained his country’s largest official Davos delegation in years, putting into practice the Communist Party’s recent exhortation to “sing the praises of the bright prospects of the Chinese economy.”

He recycled many of last year’s talking points (i.e. that China is open for business), seeking to turn the tide after spooked investors saw the country record its first net investment outflow in history last year.

AI and climate change

Almost every panel at WEF centred on artificial intelligence (AI) and climate change. This ranged from using AI to solve stubborn scientific problems (e.g. making nuclear fusion a viable and safe source of energy) to redistributing climate finance where it’s needed most (hot tip – it’s not carbon capture).

Milei dunks on socialism

The newly-elected Argentinian president unleashed his famous rhetorical fervour on Wednesday, telling attendees that the Western world is in danger and that embracing free trade capitalism is the only solution to poverty. He also met IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva, who described the talks as “very good”. She’s from Bulgaria, where “very good” is as good as it gets.

Oh, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wasbriefly stranded in Switzerland after his plane (a Boeing 😧) broke down. 

Did we mention all the snipers? 

HELEN’S DISPATCH

This was my first stint at Davos, and I can definitely understand the criticism around its elitist vibes. There was a ‘billionaires party’ last night, which was exactly what it sounds like. An Intriguer on the guest list told me that heads of state, major CEOs, royals, and A-list celebs were hitting the dance floor, with at least one of them doing the sprinkler.

That being said, there’s something genuinely special about this place. First, I mean… where else does will.i.am perform one night and then roll onto a panel the next morning to chat about his AI edtech start-up, all fresh as a daisy.

But second, where else do you get so many different nodes of influence in one block – world leaders, investors, inventors, reformers, creative types. Sure, it explains why folks pay truckloads of cash to attend each year, and it’s pure rocket fuel for WEF conspiracy theories.

And yet, I’ve also met enough genuinely innovative, decent, and impressive people here to feel that, for all its flaws, Davos can still help make good things happen.

Also worth noting:

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan instructed officials to skip this year’s Davos summit over the WEF’s stance on Israel-Hamas.
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