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China Captures The Attention Of Davos Economic Forum Participants


Each winter in the Swiss Alpine village of Davos, many of the world's leaders in government and business assemble for several days to talk economics. This year, the World Economic Forum coincides with what's been a wild ride on the world's markets, and China is at the center of it all. To delve into China's message there at Davos, we turn to Amy Wilkinson. She teaches at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and she also has a book out called "The Creator's Code," which is all about entrepreneurs. Good morning.

AMY WILKINSON: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now from where we sit, it's been kind of a scary week. Markets in Asia finished up today but had huge, huge losses earlier. China, both its entrepreneurs and its top politicians, obviously, they're trying to sell their story. They're trying to control their economy. Nobody's absolutely sure they can. Are you seeing, say, economists and entrepreneurs seeming to relax? Are people buying it?

WILKINSON: So I participated yesterday in a panel on made in China. The question is what does that mean, the brand of made in China? The Chinese officials were trying to put forward the idea that made in China is a high quality type product, and the cost advantage of China is still there, and that what you see is what you get.

MONTAGNE: So the message is China is trans - has to and is transforming itself.

WILKINSON: Yes, I think the message that the Chinese here at Davos are putting forward is that they are in a transformational period for their economy. They're moving towards more of a consumer and consumption-driven economy. That's a bumpy ride, but they will get there. And they are taking the steps to try to make the world feel like it's going to work.

MONTAGNE: You have spent a lot of time interviewing Chinese entrepreneurs. I'm wondering what characteristics you've found in them and, you know, what you draw from those conversations about China's future.

WILKINSON: I feel very encouraged about the innovation economy in China. In fact, if you look at some of the examples, WeChat, their messaging and text voice company, it's an unbelievable innovation platform where you could order a car, find a date, make a doctor's appointment, order food, track your fitness goals. It is really ahead of the United States in many ways. And so, you know, an example like that or EHang, which is a drone company, the Chinese have designed a drone that can actually fly a person in it. We don't see that in the United States, and so the innovation economy in China is certainly rapidly moving forward.

MONTAGNE: And generally speaking, what is the mood there this week in Davos? Because again, it has been a rough few weeks.

WILKINSON: It has been an up-and-down few weeks, and I would say the commentary is coming in from all different angles here. Some people are doom and gloom. Some people are quite optimistic. It really depends on who you are speaking with here.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, thank you very much for joining us.

WILKINSON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Amy Wilkinson is the author of the book "The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills Of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs," and she was speaking to us from Davos, Switzerland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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