Exclusive: Chinese Premier Li Qiang to Attend Davos Summit

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
Chinese Premier Li Qiang speaks at a panel during German-Chinese government consultations in Berlin, Germany, June 20, 2023.

BEIJING, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Chinese Premier Li Qiang is planning to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos next month, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, leading a large and senior group of government officials to show Beijing is open for business.

Li would be the most senior Chinese official to rub shoulders with global business and political elites at the Swiss ski resort since President Xi Jinping attended in 2017.

The sources said Li would be accompanied by an unusually large and senior delegation of high-level officials from ministries involved in the management of economic and foreign affairs.

China’s show of force at Davos is intended to highlight its “openness to the outside world and to relieve some external pressure,” according to one of the sources briefed on behind-closed-doors discussions.

The sources declined to be named because the information was not public. The State Council, China’s cabinet led by Li, did immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beijing is grappling with a sluggish post-pandemic recovery and has struggled to attract overseas investors, who were spooked by Xi’s increased focus on national security and the enactment of vague security laws. In the July-September quarter, China recorded the first quarterly deficit in foreign direct investment since records began in 1998.

Pressure on the world’s second-largest economy has been compounded by meager consumer spending, waning Western demand for goods made in China, local governments’ deteriorating finances, and property developers increasingly defaulting on their debts.

The sources stressed that the plans were subject to change, since they involve the schedules of a number of high-level Chinese officials.

The forum is scheduled for Jan. 15-19 and is expected to attract a number of global business and political leaders.

Chinese premiers have typically been responsible for overseeing the economy, but Xi has tightened his grip on power in recent years and steered the economy more directly in a statist direction.

Li, a career bureaucrat, was revealed as the pick for China’s No.2 role last October when Xi unveiled a leadership line-up stacked with loyalists.

At that time, Li had been known for overseeing the harrowing COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai’s 25 million people, which shut down the city’s economy and left many of its residents traumatized.

Li was also instrumental in pushing for China’s unexpectedly sudden end to its zero-COVID policy late last year.

Last month, he was appointed head of China’s financial watchdog, the Central Financial Commission, set up under a broad restructuring that tightened the Communist Party’s supervision of the financial sector.