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Davos elites give Trump an uneasy reception

President-elect Donald Trump boards the elevator to the lobby after meetings at Trump Tower in New York City on January 16, 2017.
Dominick Reuter | AFP | Getty Images
President-elect Donald Trump boards the elevator to the lobby after meetings at Trump Tower in New York City on January 16, 2017.

Soon-to-be President Donald Trump loomed large over the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, casting a shadow more imposing than any from the surrounding Swiss Alps.

The headline act this week was the first-ever visit of a Chinese premier, who helped fill the void left by the plethora of no-show Western leaders.

In an attack on the anti-globalization rhetoric that has led to the election of Trump, Xi Jinping told a packed audience on Tuesday: "It is true that economic globalization created new problems, but this is no justification to write off economic globalization altogether. ... Rather we should adapt to and guide economic globalization, cushion its negative impacts and deliver its benefits for all countries."

He never mentioned Trump by name, but it was clear where the Chinese leader was targeting his words. Others were more direct.

Billionaire investor and globalist George Soros rebuked Trump in a Bloomberg interview Thursday calling him a "would-be dictator" who "is going to fail." Fellow financial guru Nouriel Roubini slammed the "inconsistent" policies of Trump and predicted that a potential renaissance for U.S manufacturing would never succeed.

Meanwhile, departing Vice President Joe Biden implored the media to not interpret his speech as a direct blast at Trump, but there was no mistaking that his words about Russia and Vladimir Putin on Wednesday were a sharp counter to Trump's cordial statements about the Russian president.

It's unlikely that Trump himself will ever take the journey to the annual event in the Swiss mountains, especially after a campaign trail last year built on anti-globalization rhetoric and the condemning of big business and the bashing of political elites.

However, the president-elect obviously sees merit in the economic shindig, sending his newly installed advisor Anthony Scaramucci to temper any ill feelings. Scaramucci is a Davos regular and socialite whose message on Trump included the line: "He's a compassionate man, he loves his children, he loves people."

Indeed, it would be wrong to say that Davos was solely downbeat on the new regime. Far from it. Many big names from Wall Street told CNBC they were optimistic about economic growth under Trump. JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon said the country could grow at 3 to 4 percent this year with the right tax and regulatory reforms. Others like Hollywood actor Matt Damon suggested the world should give the new president a little time before making judgment.

By next year's Davos, the promises may have become actions and the threats may have softened. It's likely to be another huge 12 months for global politics that could see the world tilt even further on its axis. Here's to next year.

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