The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, finds itself navigating troubled waters. Long the affluent symbol of a globalizing world where the assumption was that more trade would bring more freedom, it now confronts international fracture, ascendant nationalism and growing protectionism under the shadow of war in Europe and sharp tensions between the United States and China.
The post-Cold War era, dominated by the idea that Western liberal democracy and free-market capitalism held all the answers, is over. This was the very ethos of Davos. It must now pivot to the new reality provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the growth of extreme inequality and aggressive Russian and Chinese autocracies.
If the old is gone, the new order is not yet born. Power is shifting away from the United States as China’s military and economic heft grows, but the shape of an alternative international system is unclear.