THE BLOG

Xi Jinping In Switzerland: Internationalism, Multilateralism And Multipolarity.

For his first trip abroad in 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping has chosen Switzerland and with a special attention given to the symbols and substance of his visit, he will send three key messages to a world facing serious economic and political turbulence.

First, the event at the United Nations office in Geneva, a city of peace, negotiations and dialogue, illustrates China's fundamental belief in internationalism and its enduring commitment to the construction of a better global governance. Xi's China is an open power which sees itself as a pro-active co-architect of an inclusive and peaceful international order.

Second, the participation of the Chinese President to the World Economic Forum signals that Beijing is more engaged than ever in global business since Davos, which is diverse in its content, remains above all a business gathering. To the global business leaders gathered in the Alps, as he already did at the Lima APEC Summit in November 2016, Xi will repeat that Beijing is supportive of free trade - China and Switzerland signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2013 - and wants multilateralism to be fully in play.

Third, by choosing a European country for his first foreign visit in the year of the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi indicates that the Sino-European relations are not only of the highest importance in a world defined by multipolarity, but that they are also essential for the realization of the New Silk Road vision.

These messages have to be interpreted by contrast with a series of American moves triggered by the entry of Donald Trump in the White House.

As articulated in the Chinese tradition, non-action can be the most productive action, reminiscent with this paradoxical wisdom, Xi will not directly address Trump's provocations but his non-answers will be the most effective responses to Trumpian Washington.

While the 45th President of the United States of America proclaims that the U.S. interests have to come first, while he emphasizes the shortcomings of the United Nations or expresses doubts on the reality of climate change, Xi Jinping places China's responsible universalism at the center of his discourse.

In that perspective, the Geneva meeting between the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chinese President will open a chapter of renewed cooperation between the 72-year old international organization and the world's most populous nation.

While Donald Trump takes the risk of a trade war by calling for protectionist measures, Beijing acts to support the global economy through its efforts to stimulate trade between nations.

Talking at the World Economic Forum whose theme this year is "Responsive and Responsible Leadership", Xi Jinping, who has hitherto demonstrated strategic patience in dealing with the U.S. change of tone toward China, shows his aptitude to deal with complexity and his capacity to lead in a world in need of equilibrium and inclusiveness.

While the U.S., since the election of Donald Trump, has been a source of unnecessary tensions across the Pacific, Xi's visit in the heart of Europe is a reminder that in a multipolar world, China can find economic and political partners outside north America.

Based on new forms of unilateralism and on an obsession for hard power Donald Trump wishes to "make America great again", but by choosing the side of internationalism, multilateralism and multipolarity, Xi Jinping is not only fully in phase with our time but he is also taking China's image and status in the world at another level.

True greatness can't be self-proclaimed and imposed upon by hegemonism, it is the recognition by the other of a country's long term contribution to the happiness and peace of mankind.

The world will tell, indeed, what is great, the spectacular populism which pretends to elevate a country above the rest or the renaissance of a civilization which aims to be a catalyst for a larger harmony.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), founder of the Europe-China Forum and of the New Silk Road Initiative.