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China's Li to Headline Davos in 'Year of Destiny'

  • Reuters

FILE - China's Premier Li Keqiang waves as he arrives at Milan's International fair for the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders, in Milan, Italy, October 2014.

FILE - China's Premier Li Keqiang waves as he arrives at Milan's International fair for the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders, in Milan, Italy, October 2014.

At least 40 heads of state and government are expected at next week's meeting of the rich and powerful at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will give a keynote speech, organizers said Wednesday.

The World Economic Forum, the Geneva-based think tank that organizes the annual get-together, said 2,500 politicians, executives, central bankers, religious leaders and others would convene to consider "The new global context" — the theme of this year's meeting.

The forum's executive chairman, Klaus Schwab, said the world was at a crossroads between "a world of disintegration, hate, fundamentalism, and on the other hand a world of solidarity, of cooperation."

He cited last week's Charlie Hebdo killings and subsequent protest march as examples, talking of "a year of destiny for humankind."

French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are all due to attend the meeting, set for Jan. 21-24.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, currently holding nuclear talks in Geneva, could meet again in Davos, where King Abdullah of Jordan, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also are expected along with, for the first time, Syrian business leaders.

The central bank governors of Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Italy and France will attend, as will International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, and could potentially hobnob with author Paulo Coelho or pop star Pharrell Williams.

The famously exclusive gathering is funded by its paying corporate members. To be eligible, companies need a turnover of $5 billion, or to be the kind of technology pioneers that Schwab regards as holding the key to the future.

Among the chief executives attending will be the heads of banks, energy companies and industrial firms, as well as business names such as Bill Gross, former head of the fund manager Pimco, and Google Inc.'s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

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