Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

Opening the Door to China

This was the beginning of a long relationship between the Forum and China, which has included official Chinese participation at Davos every year since.


A delegation from the People’s Republic of China participated in the Davos Symposium for the first time.

In autumn 1978, Klaus Schwab followed with great interest the emergence of Deng Xiaoping as China’s paramount leader and the evolution of his “Open Door” policy. Deng had initiated a domestic programme to reform Chinese industry, agriculture, national defence, and science and technology. He was gradually moving China to let go of many orthodox Communist doctrines and implement a pragmatic socialist market system “with Chinese characteristics”.

Schwab invited Deng to the 1979 Davos Symposium. While he declined, Beijing sent a delegation of eminent Chinese economists, led by Professor Qian Junrui, Director of the Institute for Global Economic Research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The presence of the Chinese aroused lively interest among participants.

In April, Schwab paid his first visit to China at the invitation of the Chairman of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This was followed by a Forum delegation of 20 European CEOs, who had a rich programme that allowed significant interaction with Chinese authorities. China’s Ministry of Economic Relations with Foreign Countries signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Management Forum that allowed for the establishment of regular exchange and the holding of an annual meeting in Beijing in cooperation with the newly created China Enterprise Management Association (CEMA). The agreement also committed the Forum to hosting in Geneva Chinese ministerial delegations to meet representatives of relevant companies and enterprises. In the early 1980s, the Forum organized a number of such visits.

Another key achievement this year was the publication of the Forum’s first Report on the Competitiveness of European Industry, which later became the annual Global Competitiveness Report.

The study was based on Schwab’s innovative concept to define competitiveness not only in the traditional manner of labour or capital productivity but also by employing a wider set of criteria and measures. The report outlined the 10 factors determining competitiveness:

  • Dynamism of the economy
  • Industrial efficacy and cost of production
  • Dynamics of the market
  • Financial dynamism
  • Human resources
  • The role of the state
  • Infrastructural dimension
  • Outward orientation
  • Forward orientation
  • Socio-political consensus and stability

At the Davos Symposium, the Forum included a concert in the programme for the first time – the beginning of what has become a tradition. The charity event was organized to support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Year of the Child. Performing was the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, with Symposium Chairman Edward Heath, the British prime minister from 1970 to 1974, as guest conductor.