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Key Themes At Davos 2015: Growth And Income Inequality

Every year at Davos there seems to be an evolution in thinking. During the opening days themes begin to emerge that seem to ultimately engulf the discussions. The early themes for 2015 include global growth and income inequality.

China's announcement of 7.4 percent full year growth in 2014 represents its slowest annual rate of expansion since 1990 and the consensus now is that the U.S. is the healthiest of the major global economies and must be the engine to pull Japan, Europe and the emerging economies along.

But the Chinese are participating in a major way at this year's conference. Historically, Chinese officials have engaged with the West when the nation is about to enter a major new phase in its economic evolution. In fact, in 1979, the World Economic Forum, then named the European Management Forum, was the first non-governmental institution to partner with China's economic development commissions, in line with economic reform policies in the People's Republic of China. The World Economic Forum in Davos has since included official Chinese participation every year. Chinese officials are here at Davos today to let the world know that the nation remains firmly on track to be the dominant economic power within our lifetimes.

As for the slowing rate of economic growth announced yesterday? Get over it! Chinese policymakers claim that they are right on track. The days of 10 percent annual growth are over and are no longer sustainable given the larger size of the Chinese economy. The New China is moving toward faster income growth and more personal consumption.

Regarding income inequality, the recent claim that the top 1 percent of society will control more wealth than the other 99 percent by next year has set a challenge to participants here, many of whom are among the 1 percent. There is something that seems inherently unfair about this large concentration of wealth in the hands of such a small percentage of global society. It will be interesting to see how Davos participants respond to this challenge and what solutions will be proffered by the 1 percent.

The juxtaposition of sentiment at Davos against President Obama's State of the Union and his proposed tax policies make it practically unavoidable for the participants here not to respond.