Thousands of global elites will once again gather at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting at the snow-covered town of Davos in the Swiss Alps on Jan. 22-25 this year, including many from China.
However, few can still remember when China participated in the event for the first time 40 years ago, the delegation was only composed of a small group and their voice was too small to be heard by the world at that time.
Klaus Schwab, founder of the WEF or the Davos Forum, said that although the Chinese delegates aroused the interest of the other participants 40 years ago, most of the time they were just listening and seldom expressed themselves.
Almost 40 years later, at the end of last year, Schwab was among the 10 foreigners to whom Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal in appreciation of their help to China during its 40 years of reform and opening-up.
In Davos, Schwab has seen the historical transformation from "China listening to the world" to "China's voice heard by the world."
"In 1978, when I read articles about Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up, I was sure that China would have a big role in the world arena," Schwab said.
Then, the year 1979 marked the beginning of a long relationship between the Forum and China, which has included official Chinese participation at Davos every year since.
In April 2018, Schwab made his first visit to China, and his visit was soon followed by a Forum delegation of 20 European CEOs.
After sending delegations to China in 1979 and 1980 and receiving several Chinese delegations to Switzerland and Europe, the Forum held its first event in China, the China-Europe Business Leaders Symposium in June 1981.
In 1992, the Annual Meeting in Davos for the first time saw the arrival of a Chinese premier. That same year, a special seminar on China's economic issues was held and "China" has become an increasingly popular topic at Davos.
In 1998, China's role in the Asian financial crisis became one of the focuses of Davos during its annual meeting. A few years later, when similar crises swept the world, the positive initiatives of the Chinese leaders at Davos and China's efforts to cope with the crisis became hot topics for the participants and won great applause.
In June 2006, the Davos Forum opened its China representative office in Beijing to serve as a home to the Center for Global Growth Companies.
This was a prelude to the 2007 first Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China, which participants quickly began referring to as the "Summer Davos."
In January 2017, with the arrival of President Xi, the first Chinese head of state ever to attend the Davos meeting, China became the real highlight in Davos's history.
Addressing the opening plenary of the 2017 annual meeting of the WEF, Xi called for joint efforts to chart the course of economic globalization and forge new models of global growth, cooperation, governance and development.
After Xi's speech, Schwab said that amid rising global concerns about protectionism, anti-globalization sentiment and other economic and political issues, Xi's presence and Chinese wisdom at Davos had tremendous historic significance and "brought us some sunshine."
Looking back at the past 40 years, with the strengthening of China's reform and opening-up, China-related topics have become increasingly popular at the WEF, which has not only witnessed China's gradual rise to the world's second-largest economy, but also promoted China's interaction with the world.
In its 2019 Annual Meeting, the Forum will see some special sessions on China-related topics such as "China Economic Outlook," "Globalization 4.0: How China Is Shaping the Future of Global Commerce," "Advancing the Belt and Road Initiative: China's Trillion-Dollar Vision" and "Learning from China's Tech Miracle."
Once again, many Chinese faces will be seen in almost all important sessions during the annual meeting, and speeches given by the Chinese delegates are sure to attract attention at Davos -- something that would have been unimaginable at the WEF 40 years ago.