Coverage of Thursday’s highlights at the World Economic Forum will include contributions from Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Henry Kissinger, brought to you by the FT’s team of reporters and columnists in Davos and by Ben Fenton, Claire Jones and Lina Saigol in London.
18.00: The Davos live blog is closing down for Thursday. For more reading and insight on today’s events, please visit the FT’s in-depth page on the World Economic Forum. We will be back with Friday’s highlights, including world wide wisdom from Sir Tim Berners-Lee and central forethought from Mario Draghi.
17.30: Gillian Tett reports on her own Davos session this morning and its compelling insights into China’s future:
One of the big guessing games in Davos this year is whether China will be able to maintain a growth rate of 8 per cent a year. But today I had a chance to interview Li Daokui, the renowned Chinese economist and former central bank official – and he insisted during the Davos event that the 8 per cent growth debate is entirely the wrong thing to worry about.
In the short to medium term, Li argued, there is every reason to expect China to keep expanding at a healthy pace since the economy is still “catching up” with other countries and it is rebalancing away from export-lead growth towards domestic consumption at a much faster pace than most Western observers recognise. And while many Western economists argue that the official statistics overstate the pace of growth, Li thinks that the data is pretty accurate: even if some state activity is inflated, that is being balanced by the fact that swathes of the “informal” Chinese economy are being under-recorded.
However, Li argued that the really big issue now is what model China will want to emulate in the future: will it be more “capitalist” like America, or more state-controlled like Singapore (or, a cynic might suggest, something more wild, like Russia). Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Li thinks that Singapore is the best option. But he stressed that it remains unclear whether the new leadership will be ready to embrace the radical reforms that he thinks will be needed in China over the next decade; it is also unclear whether public opinion in China will permit this. And while the citizens are not expressing their views via the ballot box, Li says it is a mistake to think that popular views do not count. Whereas America relies on democracy to test public views, China is now using Twitter, he argues: the social media forum has become such a crucial weather vane of public sentiment that it is being closely watched by top Chinese officials, and influencing policy. And it is not just politicians who are Twitter-focused: Li himself currently has some 5m Twitter followers, who are eagerly reading his economic tweets.
It is a fan club that even Beyoncé would be excited about; let alone any of the Western economists who are in Davos this week.