On 17 January, while Xi Jinping was addressing a meeting in Davos, the economic elite in attendance in Switzerland listened to him with the kind of attention usually reserved for statesmen of proven experience and acknowledged foresight. “Just blaming economic globalization for the world’s problems”, the Chinese president informed them, “is inconsistent with reality and will not help solve the problems”. Xi recalled how in recent years the circulation of goods, services, people and capital had acted as a flywheel for development; he also sowed the seed that China would be prepared to take the place of the United States as the world champion of free trade. Perfect timing, considering the ways in which Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the White House could affect the global balance of power.

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