Special Briefing: This Is What Globalization 4.0 Looks Like

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Why you should care

Because these are the people running the global order.

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What’s happening? As the World Economic Forum convenes in Davos, Switzerland, this week, some 3,000 global elites will focus on the event’s main theme: Globalization 4.0. Among the political leaders in attendance are several fresh faces — from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria — who represent different visions of exactly how to tackle pressing global concerns like economic inequality, climate change and geopolitical instability.

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An officier shows the automatic translator to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) prior to deliver a speech during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 22, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

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Why does it matter? Because this group includes leaders who make the world’s most important decisions. How they approach an increasingly, and inevitably, interconnected world will shape our future for decades to come. Progressive or populist, liberal or conservative, they’re the new faces of globalization.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

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Jacinda Ardern, 38, has made her mark as a progressive voice to be heard.

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She’s tackling poverty and climate change. Childhood poverty and the need to combat it were what first attracted Ardern to politics at the age of 17. As prime minister, she’s promised to halve New Zealand’s child poverty rate of around 27 percent over the next decade and dedicated some $5 billion in family assistance funding. On the world stage, she’s challenged the global community to fight climate change  — announcing in New York last year that her country would commit a total of $300 million over the next four years in climate-related assistance to Pacific nations. While she faces challenges at home, including from corporate interests and opposition forces, Ardern, 38, has made her mark as a progressive voice to be heard.

…and he’s a guiding light for Africa. Since becoming prime minister last April, Ahmed has fast-tracked change in his long-troubled east African country. The charismatic 42-year-old has freed thousands of Ethiopia’s political prisoners, allowed exiled dissidents to return home and done away with censorship. Embracing democratic values is paying off: The World Bank has committed $1 billion to Ethiopia in direct budgetary support — the first such move since 2005, when donors suspended financial aid over disputed (and violent) elections. Meanwhile, on a continent often mired in conflict, Ahmed has also opened up to neighboring Eritrea in an effort to bury the two-decade-long discord between the two countries. 

The Bolsonaro of the ball. With President Donald Trump out of the mix this year, Brazil’s newly-elected president — a sharp-tongued pro-gun advocate with homophobic and sexist tendencies — will likely take center stage. Touting his vision of a “new Brazil” in a speech Tuesday, the fiery far-right leader is hoping to attract foreign investors to Latin America’s biggest economy with promises of pro-market policies crafted by Paulo Guedes, his University of Chicago-trained economy minister. Efforts to cut bureaucracy and push pension reform to close a fiscal deficit will be untainted by ideology, Bolsonaro claims — in other words, exactly what the Davos crowd wants to hear. But whether he’ll keep his populist rhetoric contained enough to ease investors remains to be seen.

A kinder face? Anyone wary of Bolsonaro’s brash style might look to 32-year-old Kurz for some relief. While remaining tough on immigration, the conservative but generally pro-European Austrian chancellor has sparked hope among some Europeans of a more manageable alternative to the continent’s far-right movement. He’s proven popular at home partly because he’s stricter than his more liberal German counterpart, Angela Merkel. This week, Kurz is scheduled to meet with the heads of several foreign tech giants — including Apple, Facebook and Uber — just two weeks after presenting regulation aimed at levying larger taxes on them, as well as promoting greater financial transparency.

WHAT TO READ

A Trumpless Davos Tries to Counter Populism, by Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post

“While last year’s edition featured star turns from President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and other heavyweights, the political roster this week is lighter. It’s a reflection of a world in which domestic passions and pressures are crowding out internationalist concerns.” 

Everyone Loves to Hate Davos. Here’s Why It Still Matters, by Erin Dunne in The Washington Examiner

“Events like Davos are part of the answer: an important venue for relationship-building and conversations key to offsetting friction and instability.”

WHAT TO WATCH

The World Economic Forum Founder Shares the Biggest Threat to the Global Economy

“We have to have a multilateral, open, rules-based world. But we also have to make sure that we do not destroy national social coherence.”

Watch on Business Insider on YouTube:

David Attenborough Warns Davos Summit, “The Garden of Eden Is No More’

“If people can truly understand what is at stake, I believe they will give permission for business and governments to get on with the practical solutions.” 

Watch on The Guardian on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Fed up with politics? This year’s summit will also host a number of innovative workshops offering a range of quirky experiences — from a “SoundShirt” that translates a symphony into physical sensations to a VR experience allowing users to “feel” what it’s like to be a tree. And let’s not forget the extravagant parties held by the world’s gilded elite, the meals from five-star chefs and lots of champagne.

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