Every pandemic has a silver lining. This week, we were spared the spectacle of Davos Man (and Woman) jetting into the Swiss ski resort in private planes to flaunt not just their outsized carbon footprints and matching unnumbered Swiss bank accounts but their presumed moral superiority as they lecture the rest of us about how our selfish budget holidays and daily car commutes are destroying the planet.
For Homo davos and his ilk, of course, the pandemic has had a gold lining. The net worth of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has hit an all-time high of more than USD180 billion. He’s not the only one to have profited from the pandemic. The misguided response of most governments — ignoring cheap, effective generic treatments for Covid and imposing ruinous lockdowns — has directly exacerbated inequality. The rich got richer, particularly favoured big corporates and all those with white collar jobs and good housing who could work comfortably from home, especially those on government payrolls who enjoy rising wages and job security. The poor, on the other hand, got sicker and lost their jobs at a greater rate, especially if they were unlucky enough to work for small businesses who were forced to close for months while their big competitors laughed all the way to the bank.
And why not laugh? The World Economic Forum really is a joke. We are meant to believe that Klaus Schwab, its founder, cares deeply about growing inequality. Last year he persuaded Prince Charles and UN Secretary-General António Guterres to launch the ‘Great Reset’ initiative to ‘reset capitalism’. Unfortunately, most of what the WEF is proposing will increase the power of crony capitalists and funnel ever more taxpayer money into Green boondoggles. A cheery little ad told us that by 2030 we’d own nothing and we’d be happy. Let’s hope Schwab and friends plan to lead by example and divest themselves of all their worldly goods. Until they do, only the foolhardy would do as they say, rather than as they do.
Aside from Mr Schwab, President Xi delivered some of funniest lines so far at the forum. Against a backdrop depicting a fiery sunrise over the Great Wall of China, he told elite invitees via Zoom that, ‘the strong should not bully the weak’, peace and stability depend on respect for ‘international law and international rules’, and differences should be bridged through ‘dialogue’ and ‘negotiation’. This provided some much-needed comic relief in Australia. After weeks of tedious division fostered by the black-arm brigade at the ABC and their friends who control the commanding heights of the cultural economy and are doing their best to turn Australia Day into a guilt-fest of shame and mourning, Xi achieved the impossible and gave the whole nation a good belly laugh with his comic timing and mastery of Newspeak. Oh, how the Australian producers of coal, barley, wine, beef, wood and lobsters chortled. Oh, how the ministers whose phone calls have gone unanswered for months giggled. Now that the Wuhan flu has raised the value of toilet paper, copies of our Free Trade Agreement with China could come in handy.
Yet it wasn’t all sunshine and smiles. Xi is not happy with the quadrilateral alliance that the US, Australia, India and Japan have formed to contain China. He warned that without international law the world might fall back to the ‘law of the jungle’ with devastating consequences for humanity. By that he doesn’t mean that China has decided to respect the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and renounce its illegal control of sea lanes in the South China Sea. He also doesn’t mean that he will sticky-tape together the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ agreement that he tore up last year which was meant to guarantee self-government in Hong Kong until 2047. As a friendly demonstration of not bullying ‘the weak’, China dispatched a ‘bomber swarm’ of 13 combat aircraft into Taiwanese airspace on Saturday and followed up with 15 more aircraft on Sunday. War with China is no laughing matter but Mr Xi must understand that the invasion of Taiwan is a bridge too far.
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