Reality Confronts Idealism at Summer Davos

People walk past signage for the World Economic Forum Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin, China.
Bloomberg | Getty Images
People walk past signage for the World Economic Forum Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin, China.

Like the persistent haze over the Chinese city of Tianjin's skyline, fears for the state of the global economy are looming over the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of New Champions in China.

Billed as the 'Summer Davos,' 2,000 delegates from 86 countries have gathered to discuss such wide ranging topics as innovation, social entrepreneurship, and the role of the arts in transforming society.

But even though a sense of idealism permeates much of the official agenda, there is no escaping the reality of the current state of the global economy.

When asked by CNBC what the burning issues are at the meetings he's attending, Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn didn't hesitate to answer.

"Europe. They all want to know about Europe," he said.

The IMF's Deputy Director, Zhu Min, sought to reassure those who are worried about the currency's future.

"I know many people here have euros in their pocket," he said in a panel session. "The euro is safe."

Adding to the anxiety over the Europe crisis, are fears that China's slowdown could be worse than expected. Many will be watching for clues of government intervention when Premier Wen Jiabao speaks at the conference later Tuesday.

Li Daokui, Adviser to the Peoples' Bank of China, said despite all the recent disappointing economic data, he actually expects to see robust growth in China's GDP before the end of the year.

"I still forecast 8 percent for the whole year, which means it will pick up in the fourth quarter," he said.

Aside from all the discussions on big, forward-looking issues, there are those who have come to Tianjin in search of opportunities. One delegate told CNBC the real gem of the gathering for him is the chance to network. He has dozens of bilateral meetings lined up, expecting one in 10 could result in a business opportunity.

— With reports from Dow Jones