This year’s VIPS may be too busy putting out fires to think about the “Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion”

▶ China, Saudi Ara­bia, and the U.S. are send­ing high-level emis­saries ▶ “Geopo­lit­i­cal risks are be­com­ing much more rel­e­vant”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Contents - �Matthew Camp­bell

The or­ga­niz­ers of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum want at­ten­dees to fo­cus on the chal­lenges of the fu­ture: The theme of this year’s an­nual meet­ing is Mas­ter­ing the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, a catchall rubric that de­scribes ad­vances in tech­nolo­gies such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics. The prob­lems of the here and now, though, are likely to be a more pop­u­lar topic of dis­cus­sion.

Among the as­sem­bled politi­cians, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers, and fi­nanciers will be sev­eral key play­ers in sim­mer­ing global crises—china’s stock mar­ket melt­down, the emerg­ing cold war be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia, and Rus­sia’s eco­nomic slump. The gath­er­ing is tak­ing place a cou­ple of weeks af­ter bil­lion­aire Ge­orge Soros, a Davos stal­wart, warned that the China-in­duced tur­moil in fi­nan­cial mar­kets is start­ing to re­mind him of “the cri­sis we had in 2008.” Oth­ers are also voic­ing con­cerns. “This is a very stress­ful time,” says John Veih­meyer, global chair­man of con­sult­ing

com­pany KPMG, who’s head­ing to Davos. “Geopo­lit­i­cal risks are be­com­ing much more rel­e­vant, and con­cern about them is ac­cel­er­at­ing.”

Un­doubt­edly one of the most in-de­mand guests at this year’s fo­rum, which runs Jan. 20-23, will be Fang Xing­hai, vice chair­man of the China Se­cu­ri­ties Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion, who has the un­en­vi­able task of su­per­vis­ing the gy­rat­ing stock mar­kets of the world’s No. 2 econ­omy. He’s ap­pear­ing on the se­cond day of the con­fer­ence, at a panel dis­cus­sion on how China’s econ­omy can n “shift gears with­out stalling”; it also fea­tures Ray Dalio, founder of thehe hedge fund Bridgewate­r As­so­ciates,ates, and Chris­tine La­garde, man­ag­ing ing di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

Rus­sia, an­other coun­try look­ing ok­ing to re­tain the con­fi­dence of in­tern­ter­na­tional in­vestors, is also wellell­rep­re­sented. It has dis­patched­hed cen­tral bank Gov­er­nor Elvira ira Nabi­ul­lina, who is joined by ex­ec­u­tives from state-con­trolled d lenders

OAO Sber­bank of Rus­sia,ia, VTB Bank, and Vneshe­conom­bank— om­bank— all still un­der U.S. and Euro­pean sanc­tions. Nabi­ul­lina is s par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Jan. 23 ses­sion n on the global debt dilemma, a suit­able able topic for a coun­try try­ing to con­tain­ntain a bal­loon­ing bud­get deficit.

Davos at­ten­dees hop­ing for in­sight into the spi­ralin­gi­ral­ing con­flicts in the Middle East t are un­likely to be dis­ap­pointed.. Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, who led his coun­try’s talks with world pow­ers to win a nu­clear deal, will be wan­der­ing the halls of the Congress Cen­tre. It may be hard for him to avoid bump­ing into of­fi­cials from archri­val Saudi Ara­bia, in­clud­ing Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, the king­dom’s for­mer in­tel­li­gence chief and one­time am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, who is head­lin­ing a panel on un­der­stand­ing Is­lam. Eage Ea­ger not to miss a chance to but­ton­hole so many key ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ners in its last year in of­fice, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tionad­min­is­trat is dis­patch­ing its most high-rank­inghigh-r del­e­ga­tion to Davos. Vice Pre Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den will be ac­com­pan ac­com­pa­nied by John Kerry, Ja­cob Lew, and Ash­tonA Carter—the sec­re­taries of state,st the Trea­sury, and de­fense, re­spec­

The Americ Amer­i­cans won’t get an op­por­tu­nity tot press North Korea to aban­don its n nu­clear-weapons am­bi­tions dur­ing their visit. An in­vi­ta­tion for the reclusive state’s lead­ers to at­tend w was re­scinded af­ter it tested wh what it claimed was a hy­dro­gen bomb ear­lier this month.

Tra­diti Tra­di­tion­ally, Davos has been em­brac em­braced as a plat­form for re­brand­ing by c com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments seekin seek­ing to bur­nish their rep­u­ta­tions, and this year is no ex­cep­tion. Ar­gen Ar­gentina’s new pres­i­dent, Mauri­cio Mac Macri, is headed to the con­fer­ence alon along with his fi­nance and for­eign affa affairs min­is­ters, to try to con­vince inv in­vestors that his coun­try, which has de de­faulted on its debts at least seven times, has turned an eco­nomic cor­ner.

Fur­ther star power will be sup­plied by Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new prime min­is­ter and a re­li­able selfie mag­net. He’s lead­ing a much larger than nor­mal del­e­ga­tion of min­is­ters, may­ors, and ex­ec­u­tives from the U.S.’S largest trad­ing part­ner, and he’s also join­ing a panel on gen­der par­ity in the econ­omy, along with Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, and Face­book’s Sh­eryl Sand­berg, both Davos reg­u­lars.

The bot­tom line The tur­moil in China’s fi­nan­cial mar­kets and in­sta­bil­ity in the Middle East will be among the top­ics com­mand­ing at­ten­tion in Davos.

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