Reporter’s Diary: A quieter Davos
Updated 14:59, 28-Jan-2019
By Cheng Lei
["china"]
The pull-out of the U.S. delegation, the no-show by Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron had a domino effect, rooms were left vacant, sessions unfilled, buzz diminished. 
The streets were less slippery and the security less of a pain. The ears less frequently assaulted by the thundering of helicopters. With fewer reporters, catering at the media village became even more modest – no bananas in the fruit basket, while teabags disappeared on the final day.  
Students on school-strike to raise awareness for climate change / CGTN Photo

Students on school-strike to raise awareness for climate change / CGTN Photo

PWC released its 2019 CEOs survey prior to the start of the forum, showing confidence has plummeted because of fears over Brexit, trade war, China slowdown, and unknown surprises – as people brace for the new normal of a wild world. The fractures evident around the world resulted in collective self-reflection; Davos was a chance for the powerful and rich to huddle, instead of chest thumping.  
Doing good 
Overwhelmingly, business and political leaders talked about doing good instead of doing well. 
Twenty-five of the world's biggest consumer product companies like P&G and Coca-Cola announced the Loop initiative to reduce packaging waste. The goal is to use everything five times – as opposed to disposing after one use. Look out for Oral-B toothbrushes with exchangeable heads.  
Oral-B toothbrushes designed to reduce waste / CGTN Photo

Oral-B toothbrushes designed to reduce waste / CGTN Photo

To allow investors to vote with their bank accounts, financial services companies like UBS – again, through alliances, are setting up standards for responsible corporate behaviors. The battery alliance pushes for ethical cobalt mining, ensuring our electric cars or mobile phones aren't powered by minerals dug with children's hands. Big tech, after 2018's events that questioned their influence, tried to drive home the message their global reach could be used for social good.  
Are things really so bad? 
Scott Minerd, Global Chief Investment Officer at Guggenheim Partners, says "Davos is a good contra-indicator, when everyone is downbeat things are actually better, when there is euphoria it's time to be careful." Later in the week, I heard quite a few CEOs say “Let's not talk ourselves into a recession.”
Salesforce's tech for good message / CGTN Photo

Salesforce's tech for good message / CGTN Photo

Is China the big bomb moving towards detonation with shrapnel that may pierce even the most remote economies? A prominent Saudi business person grabbed me by the arm and said, “Tell me, what is really happening there?” English TV outlets were doing stories about the “China team,” including Chinese media and companies. Chinese regulators gave out reassurances about the slowdown as if alms in church.  
In this increasingly politicized business environment, I, a representative of a Chinese media outlet, wondered to what degree my interviewees “China-proof” their answers to me. Or does the acceptance of my interview request mean a certain wish to placate the Chinese? And the rejection of same otherwise?  These doubts aside, my conversations with global CEOs from a wide range of industries show that investments in the Chinese market continue – be it travel giant Booking.com, industrial conglomerate Siemens or software behemoth SAP.  
Changes on the promenade
Walking through the main Davos thoroughfare, Promenade, one notices new additions to the Davos tech regulars of Palantir, Infosys, Salesforce. This year, there are shop fronts for Huawei and JD – a message that their globalization ambitions remain intact.  
JD.com pavilion on promenade / CGTN Photo

JD.com pavilion on promenade / CGTN Photo

Kaifu Lee, the indefatigable tech investor and writer, became chair of the newly created AI council at WEF. Aside from speaking on panels, Lee held private events for U.S. media chiefs to foster more understanding between China and the U.S. 
On the last day, I shared a buggy ride with George Schmitt, head of corporate affairs at WEF, who told me that planning was already underway for the 2020 Davos – its 50th anniversary. Which bigwigs turn up will depend on how 2019 pans out – something none of the Davos elites can predict.