With the international order in place since World War II breaking down, the new president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, must set a course for America in the world, particularly in its relations with China, Europe and Russia, Henry A. Kissinger told participants in the closing session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
“President Trump will have to find a definition of the American role that answers the concern in many parts of the world that America is giving up its indispensable leadership role and define what and where America can lead, where it must contribute, and in that process help in the creation of an international order,” said Kissinger, who served as US Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977 and is Chairman of Kissinger Associates in the US.
Trump will need to reshape ties with China and Russia and recast the transatlantic alliance with Europe, Kissinger advised. He called Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the opening session of the Annual Meeting on 17 January “of fundamental significance”. Xi, Kissinger noted, “laid out a concept for globalization and its challenges. It was an assertion by China of its participation in the construction of a new international order. One of the key problems of our period is that the international order with which we are familiar is disintegrating and new elements from Asia and the developing world are entering.”
Describing the US transatlantic partnership with Europe, Kissinger stressed: “I don’t think it is obsolete; it is vital. What needs to be re-examined is the relevance of the institutions. A transatlantic partnership needs to be reconstructed, but it is a key element of American and European policy.”
In the same session, Co-Chairs of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 offered their views on responsive and responsible leadership, the theme of the meeting. With the rapid changes driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what seems to be a widespread sense of uncertainty about geopolitics, “The world has been turned upside down,” remarked Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children International in the UK.
“We live in a world with a lot of changes happening,” agreed Frans van Houten, President and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Philips in the Netherlands. “In the measurement of trust, leaders are low right now.” To address this lack of trust, leaders have to adopt inclusive approaches and attitudes, he reckoned. “They must be inclusive and anchored on a long-term vision around the Sustainable Development Goals. We must find ways to contribute to them.” In the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, focusing on education has to be a key part of that. “You cannot assume that the skills that you learned at school are the skills that will get you through to retirement,” said van Houten. “Businesses have a role to play in life-long learning and reskilling. People are just not prepared for the digital future.”
Coping with technology’s double edge will be a major challenge, Thorning-Schmidt explained. “All the new technologies have one side that can be negatively destructive and one side that can be extremely positive. If we understand this, we can make faster moves for the most deprived people. We will be able to help them better if we apply the technology better,” she said.
Listening to and understanding people are the keys to responsive and responsible leadership, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Documentary Filmmaker at SOC Films in Pakistan, observed. “We have to have empathy, not build walls. Each one of us here should walk in other people’s shoes.” Counselled Brian T. Moynihan, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of America Corporation in the US: “Listen to everyone, to all constituencies. Take into account not just the people who agree with you, but also those who don’t.”
More than 3,000 participants from nearly 100 countries, including over 50 heads of state or government, participated in some 400 sessions. These are highlights and key outcomes of the Annual Meeting: