Last week, the business world turned its attention to “New Champions” – the emerging enterprises and economies featured at the annual World Economic Forum “Summer Davos” summit.
It was my seventh time attending, and it gave me a chance to reflect on how the global economy has changed since the inception of Summer Davos in 2007 and my first visit to Dalian, China. Then, Japan was the second largest economy in the world, followed by China, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, respectively. The rumblings of a future recession could be heard, and one year later, the world was reeling from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing market calamity.
Six years ago, these rapidly developing economies – the New Champions – were just beginning to drive global economic growth. Today, these economies are leading global economic growth as the developed world continues to recover from the Great Recession. China is now the world's second largest economy, with Brazil, Russia, and India rising in the ranks.
At Summer Davos, the economic growth and the emergence of new multi-national corporations from Asia were apparent in both the content of the program and the atmosphere of the summit. The meetings featured many Chinese entrepreneurs and successful financiers talking about innovations in business and technology as well as changed paradigms for managing the global economy. No longer were the discussions dominated by Western experts sharing wisdom. The stage was shared by a confident and poised group of Chinese participants, often dominating sessions and focusing on new models of growth based on a Chinese model of long-term goals rather than short-term profits. There was no better symbol for this than the state–of-the-art, beautiful conference center built just for this occasion!
A real emphasis was placed on the globalization of Chinese businesses, which is now a big push by the government. More than half a dozen sessions focused on Chinese enterprises going global. From “Local Multinational” to “Achieving Global Success in a Chinese Way,” they brought together leading Chinese corporations from China International Capital Corporation to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and others to share their perspectives and experiences.
These sessions also evoked strong comments about doing business in the US and the attitude that, despite the statistics to the contrary, it is difficult for Chinese companies to do business in the US. As communication professionals, we should think about this challenge and how we can enable Chinese companies that have been successful in the US to better share their success stories to combat the negative perception held by many potential Chinese investors.
However, the overriding focus of the annual meeting was on the strategic shifts that are taking place caused by technology and the digital ecosystem as well as the quest for sustainable growth; this was highlighted by the Chinese premier.
Premier Li Keqiang (who succeeded Premier Wen as an official host of the Annual Meeting of New Champions) spoke to a small group of business leaders before his opening speech, outlining his vision for China's growth imperative. He talked about his optimism for more gradual growth in the Chinese economy that will be fueled by a greater consumer economy and tapping into China's expanding middle class. This would be driven by continued urbanization of China, which already has more than 120 cities with more than a million people.
This policy of urbanization is a big bet on China's future. To be successful, there will be new opportunities for more infrastructure development and network solutions and continued challenges to the environment that will affect us all. Li Keqiang emphasized that China has to create a new model of growth for the future, and it will be exciting to work with the world's other leading firms to help shape this model. He issued a challenge to all the businesses present, saying that China was a willing customer for the new and novel technologies that help meet China's needs for sustainable growth and that China was focused on creating a culture of conservation for the future.
With the challenge set, I look forward to seeing how the new champions rise to this challenge and help China achieve a future of sustainable growth.
Margery Kraus is founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide.