One thing that the organisers of the World Economic Forum 2019 meeting, which started in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, do not lack, is ambition. The title says it all. It’s a bit of a mouthful: Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Lots of words that can mean many things to many different people. That’s also reflected in the diversity of the audience. The organisation has come a long way since 1971, when a University of Geneva business professor, Klaus Schwab, founded what was then known as the European Management Forum, as a nonprofit foundation based in Geneva. Its ambitions were more modest in those days: to bring in business leaders to debate how the region’s firms could catch up with the US, the undisputed economic powerhouse and leader of the “free world”.

It’s not without irony that the US is nowhere to be seen. On the eve of the meeting, President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled the American delegation’s trip...

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