More than 1,500 leaders from around the world came together at this important juncture for the global economy to signal their shared interests in advancing dialogue, innovation and collaboration to revitalize growth.
Gathering in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, for the first in-person Annual Meeting of the New Champions since 2019, policy-makers, business executives, international organization and civil society leaders, academics and innovators reflected on the complex, interconnected global challenges of the past four years, and proposed joint solutions to create a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future.
The world faces low growth, high costs of living, increasing geopolitical fragmentation, widening inequality and the growing effects of the climate and nature crises, as well as the continuing repercussions of the pandemic on industry, society and trust. These converging crises have created heightened levels of uncertainty and raised questions about how to build an economy that works for all. Leaders called for a new approach to “re-globalization” and urgency in reviving cooperation for shared challenges.
Li Qiang, Premier of China, called for “win-win cooperation” to address the world’s challenges. “We must follow the trend of history, cement the consensus on development and continue our efforts to build an open-world economy,” he said.
“Time is of the essence” for climate finance and action, said Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, urging public and private sectors, East and West, North and South, to work together to innovate and cooperate to address shared global risks. “Part of the difficulty is that we cannot take another crisis,” she added.
“This is the big opportunity to look at those areas, those regions, those countries that were left out of the first wave of globalization,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organization. “Let us look at those areas that are friendly to investment and see if we cannot decentralize and diversify supply chains so that we bring these areas into world trade … to spur global growth.”
Emerging technologies, entrepreneurship and innovation offer hope to overcome threats, drive economic growth and raise living standards. “The world needs bold and visionary people who can harness the power of innovation and collaborate across sectors, regions, nations and cultures to create a more peaceful, inclusive and resilient future,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
Yet new technologies also raise new risks, and participants called for responsible and ethical design, development and applications of emerging technologies. Regulators and policy-makers also called for greater human capital investment in the current economic and technological transformation. “We must work to educate and train people with the necessary skills for a digital future, as well as prevent biases in algorithms,” said Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Minister of Digital Transformation, Slovenia. “But fears should not hinder the innovation,” she said.
Across more than 160 sessions and workshops at the meeting, the Forum and its partners launched or advanced more than 25 high-impact initiatives, serving as ongoing platforms for multi-year collaboration across geographies and industries.
On trade and geopolitical collaboration
Business leaders and government officials shared insights on navigating trade tensions and finding balance between strategic competition and cooperation to manage global challenges.
“The world is still fragmented. There are still fundamental challenges, and if we do not get into a situation of more collaboration, we will pay an economic price for that,” said Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum. “For many years, trade was the driving engine for growth,” he added. “If we introduce new tariffs and a beggar-thy-neighbour approach instead of a prosper-thy-neighbour approach, we will not get back on a sustainable growth trajectory.”
- China formally ratified the World Trade Organization Agreement on fisheries subsidies to increase ocean sustainability.
- Senior government and business leaders advanced discussions on future-proofing the Middle Corridor as an alternative trade route through upgraded infrastructure, stronger regional integration and de-risking supply chains.
- A new white paper on “carbon competitiveness” outlined future scenarios and called for trade policy coherence that supports the net-zero transition.
On climate action, energy transition and nature protection
The energy transition has plateaued, and equity is at risk, according to the new Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2023, which called for a speedier, more inclusive shift to renewable energy.
Speeding up the transition and delivering on the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement offers unprecedented opportunities. “We’ll have to invest more, we’ll have to mine more materials, we’ll have to produce more (public-private-partnership) projects, more power generation, more renewable energy,” said Benedikt Sobotka, Chief Executive Officer, Eurasian Resources Group. “This is the biggest economic opportunity – and opportunity for innovation – that this generation of humankind has ever seen.”
Innovators offered models to support further action on fighting the climate crisis and protecting biodiversity. For example, successful ocean innovators from China shared their advances in technologies to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, support food production and bolster coastal tourism. Ten UpLink innovators, representing the winning cohort of a recent challenge in partnership with Saudi Arabia, showed how they are securing food in arid climates. Additionally, a new paper also outlined a blueprint to fast-track the green hydrogen industry in China as part of the Accelerating Clean Hydrogen Initiative.
- Three leading clusters in China, France and the United States joined the Transitioning Industrial Clusters Towards Net Zero initiative.
- As part of the 1t.org, the Chinese government committed to planting and conserving 70 billion trees, with several companies joining the pledge.
- More than 50 chief executive officers joined the new Airports of Tomorrow initiative to harness the power of new technologies in pursuit of net-zero aviation.
- The Tropical Forest Alliance brought together five big Chinese market players to drive the beef, paper, palm oil and soy production model to address deforestation.
- In partnership with the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), discussions on integrating land use and balancing the needs of agriculture, energy production, industrial development and biodiversity conservation in response to the Kunming/Montreal 30 by 30 Global Biodiversity Framework.
- Shipping industry leaders, logistics companies and container ports joined efforts to help reach net-zero emissions in shipping by supporting next-generation vessels, establishing industry standards and creating an enabling infrastructure for new fuels.
- The Forum’s 100 million farmers initiative announced a focus on restoring soil health led by Yara International and public and private partners.
- Discussions took place to advance innovative partnerships to finance climate and nature across philanthropic, public and private institutions under the Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA framework).
On emerging technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship
Generative AI, sustainable aviation fuels and plant sensors are among the top 10 emerging technologies of 2023, according to a new report, in partnership with Frontiers. How to harness these and other advancing technologies for success while managing their risks was a core topic at the meeting. Leaders shared insights, including a new white paper on how small- and medium enterprises can use technologies to drive innovation and growth, and debated governance frameworks. Another paper explored how to unlock safety and innovation in autonomous vehicles.
The Technology Pioneers community revealed its 2023 cohort of the 100 most promising start-ups making progress in areas including sustainability, advanced manufacturing and inclusive healthcare, and the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution convened its global network to share best practices on technology innovation and governance.
- The Forum’s AI Governance Alliance (AIGA) advanced discussions on designing and implementing responsible AI frameworks that increase the benefits of generative AI while managing challenges.
- The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Supply Chains continued to develop a common vision for the industrial metaverse while addressing key obstacles to implementation.
- Central bank representatives, along with the private sector, explored the applications of new innovations in finance and proposed principles for central bank digital currency global interoperability.
On jobs, skills, health and equity
Leaders shared insights on the future of jobs in Asia amid geoeconomic shifts, technological disruption and the energy transition, as well as shared learnings and good practices to close skills gaps and gender gaps, with an emphasis on the persistent gaps in technology and entrepreneurship.
The Forum also released new findings on the transformative potential of AI in healthcare, as well as an overview of China’s strategic outlook for health and healthcare.
- Progress was made to advance the Reskilling Revolution and provide 1 billion people with better education, skills and economic opportunities by 2030, engaging new businesses and educators from Asia.
- The Government of Viet Nam will collaborate with the Forum to improve green and innovative skills in the country, joining a network of nearly 20 governments advancing skills investments in their economies.