Davos Gives a Pass to Xi Jinping's Hypocrisy | Opinion

The annual gathering of the global elite for the World Economic Forum is being held online this year. Although attendees are not able to meet in person in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, I am sure that they have found ways to let each other know how pleased they are that Donald Trump is safely out of the way in Florida. They never liked Trump. He dared to criticize their beloved global institutions. He refused to play the game. And worst of all, he took on their great friends in China. Perhaps this was why the online jamboree featured an address via Zoom by that perpetually cheerful fellow, President Xi Jinping.

It is important to understand who the Davos crowd are and what motivates them. They are the bosses of global businesses and big banks. They rub shoulders with leading political figures. In many cases, they have occupied these powerful positions for decades. To some degree, their collective decisions and policy stances are followed by aspiring world leaders. Yet for all their talk of global cooperation, of safeguarding the environment and of corporate social responsibility, there is a moral vacuum in their worldview. They think that a nationalist like Trump is a worse human being than the leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

This group must have been thrilled that their star guest from China agreed to address them. The feel-good speech that Xi delivered was straight out of the playbook of trendy global leaders. It was littered with nice phrases such as "giving support to developing nations." The benefits of multilateralism should, Xi said, include "technological exchanges." And, of course, there was the obligatory promise to combat climate change. Because the world continues to be torn to shreds by the COVID-19 crisis, Xi also had a word to say about the pandemic. He boasted, without a trace of irony, that China has sent 36 medical teams out to help struggling nations. No doubt he expected a round of applause and hearty thanks for this selfless mission.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

I can only imagine that the lobbyists and the big money men were thrilled by all of this, probably telling themselves that the oration was powerful and historic. Perhaps if they lived in the real world, and if the Davos meeting was to have a semblance of credibility, the WEF organizers might have considered inviting another speaker along to provide a counterweight. I know that they would never ask me to attend but, given the chance, this is how I would have responded:

"I'm sure that the 36 nations given help by China were grateful for that medical assistance, President Xi. Unless I missed something, though, I did not hear a single apology from you for this pandemic which began in very dubious circumstances in Wuhan Province and which your officials tried to cover up. Despite this oversight, I am sure that your calls for removing trade barriers and opening up the world economy have gone down very well with the delegates. With that in mind, should I take it that the vindictive and punitive tariffs placed on Australia by your government will be removed forthwith? As for your worries about climate change, can I assume that they mean you will personally undertake to stop building scores of new coal-fired power stations in China every year? On the topic of responsibility, you are a leading member of the international community. Yet your support for the rule of law and trust in global institutions does seem to be at odds with your treatment of the Uighur Muslims in your country. Would you care to explain what you know of the detention camps in Xinjiang in which an estimated 1 million people are currently incarcerated? While we all know that there was some antipathy between yourself and Donald Trump's administration, one of its final acts was to describe your treatment of this group as genocide. What do you have to say to that?"

Don't expect any of these questions to be asked by a single online attendee at Davos, of course. Most of them are happy to turn a blind eye to China's considerable crimes. Others are in their pay in one way or another. The rest don't seem to have a problem with China at all. Just consider the words of German chancellor Angela Merkel, who said this week: "I don't think it would do justice to many societies if we were to say this is the United States and over there is China and we are grouping around either the one or the other. This is not my understanding of how things ought to be." Merkel sees no difference between America and China.

That is why it is vital that the Republican Party and populist movements across the world keep raising these issues and keep up the pressure on China. Be under no illusion: communist China is the biggest threat to our way of life in the West. The Davos crowd is simply too blind to see it.

Nigel Farage is senior editor-at-large of Newsweek's "The Debate" platform.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.