The Old Town of Bern is usually quiet on weekends, yet the tranquility was shattered on Saturday by a group of demonstrators chanting slogans against globalization and free trade along Europe's longest weather-protected shopping alley. [Special coverage]
The protest, its participants mostly young, offers a glimpse of the simmering sentiment among those in the West who felt lost in the formidable global trend.
What is wrong with globalization? Why has the West, its biggest beneficiary, turned into its biggest opponent? What does the world need to do about it?
In his just concluded trip to Switzerland, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his answers to those questions of the times. At Davos, the weathervane of the global economy, and in Geneva, the cradle of modern multilateralism, he presented China's prescription for global woes and his vision for mankind.
Besides his inspiring global statesmanship, Xi's first foreign visit in the new year has also shed more light on the broad spectrum of his charisma.
A VISIONARY LEADER
Xi's Switzerland trip came at a time when the world is standing at a crossroad. A vehement debate about the impact and future of globalization has emerged from across the globe, notably in the developed world.
In two keynote speeches delivered respectively at the 2017 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), the Chinese leader figured out the cruxes of the current social and economic problems, charted a new and right path for global economic integration, and envisioned a better tomorrow for all.
While addressing global political and business heavyweights at the WEF, Xi voiced his belief that economic globalization, despite being a "doubt-edged sword," should not bear all the blames.
He pointed out that the real problems are a lack of robust driving forces for global growth, inadequate global economic governance and uneven global development.
WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said the Chinese president's speech was "very important" and "brought us some sunshine" at this historic moment.
In his UNOG address, the Chinese leader presented to the world his vision of building a community of shared future for all mankind.
To turn this notion into reality, Xi urged members of the international community to jointly promote dialogue and consultation, cooperation and cross-cultural exchanges, as well as environmental protection.
A CHAMPION OF INNOVATION
Innovation is the hinge of the China-Switzerland partnership as both countries value it as an engine to boost bilateral cooperation and their respective development.
Back in China, Xi has been a strong advocate for innovation. He lists it as the first of China's "five development concepts," with which he aims to pivot the Chinese economy away from the old model that relied heavily on smokestack industries to a more sustainable and environment-friendly one.
Switzerland is famous for its craftsmanship in making high-quality products, such as watches and knives. It is also a land of innovation. The annual Global Innovation Index has ranked it as the world's most innovative economy for six straight years.
That is why Beijing has chosen to join Bern in building such a partnership that underscores innovation.
In his meeting with Swiss President Doris Leuthard on Monday, Xi said China wants to step up cooperation with the European nation in digitization and smart manufacturing. These are some of the key areas that will transform the face of manufacturing in the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.
Last year, Beijing introduced the "Made in China 2025" initiative, a campaign to reshape China's manufacturing edges within 10 years via advanced technologies like robotics, sensors and artificial intelligence.
As Bern is also advancing its own Industry 4.0 programs, the two countries have agreed to better align their efforts and unleash the potential of innovation.
A GREAT COMMUNICATOR
Good communication inspires people and helps build consensus. The Switzerland trip has once again proved that the Chinese president is not just a visionary leader, but also a skillful communicator.
Opening his Davos speech, he quoted English writer Charles Dickens -- "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" -- to draw a general picture of today's world, one of contradictions.
In explaining why the world cannot and should not backslide on globalization, he compared the global economy to a big ocean no one can escape from.
"Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible," he said.
Making a vivid case against protectionism, the Chinese leader said resorting to such measures is like "locking oneself in a dark room."
"While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war," he warned.
In his UNOG speech, he said he is confident that with joint efforts, the international community can make a multi-functional "Swiss army knife" to solve the various problems troubling the current world.
The rounds of applause Xi received proved that his remarks, studded with quotes, similes and metaphors, succeeded in striking a chord with his foreign audience.
A SPORTS FAN
During his trip, the Chinese president also visited the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, where he held talks with IOC Chairman Thomas Bach and made a tour of the Olympic Museum.
At the museum, Xi was invited by Bach to get onto the top of a podium, a spot only for Olympic champions. Smiling and waving to the crowd, Xi invited Bach to join him.
"President Xi is a true champion and I want to give him a set of medals because he has a clear vision about the important role of sports in society," Bach said in a later interview with Xinhua.
It is widely known that Xi is a soccer fan, but football is not his only favorite.
He once told a foreign media organization that he loves soccer, swimming, mountain climbing, volleyball, tennis and basketball, and is also fond of watching many winter games, like speed skating.
Meanwhile, the Chinese leader has been ardent in promoting a comprehensive development of sports in China.
Xi believes that the dream of building a China that is strong in sports is closely related to realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
In 2022, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics for the first time. In his talks with Bach, Xi said China is ready to work with the IOC to ensure its success.
"I was very impressed to see President Xi has a vision and strategy to make his vision a reality," Bach said.