As business leaders and policy makers from across the globe assemble in the Swiss ski resort of Davos to assess the state of the world, they are faced with two fundamentally different outlooks.
One is present in the theme of this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting. Organizers say they aim to rededicate leaders from all walks of life to developing a shared narrative and focus on "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World."
The theme is developed from Chinese President Xi Jinping's landmark speeches at Davos and at the UN Office at Geneva a year ago, where he made an insightful analysis of the challenges troubling the world and offered China's prescription: building of a community with a shared future for mankind and achieving shared and win-win development.
The other is upheld by U.S. President Donald Trump, who is expected to attend the Davos annual meeting this year. His signature self-centered "America First" policy has led his country away from multiple multilateral pacts and infused anxiety into both allies and the broader world.
Although what he is about to say at the globalist brainstorming feast on Friday remains guesswork, few believe this particular pulpit would be able to make him turn his back on the poster boy of a rising isolationist tendency that many fear is fragmenting the world.
Given such a context, this year's Davos theme befits the time and occasion. It captures the ethos of a world struggling against an unfortunate reality toward a shared aspiration.
The world is indeed fracturing, if not completely fractured yet. On the international horizon, with the United States bent on "making America great again" by putting America first, and Britain untying the knot with the European Union, the bandwagon of globalization and integration has been put into reverse. Inside individual societies, Western ones in particular, fissures are emerging along the fault lines of income, race and party.
Underneath all the fragmentation is a tug of war between the two distinct outlooks, primarily on economic globalization, the defining trend of world development over the past decades.
Both sides agree that after rumbling on for decades, modern economic globalization has now run into a predicament. But they are poles apart on how to look at it and deal with it.
The zero-summers choose to build walls. They pursue their own interests at the expense of others. Although they are mostly the biggest beneficiaries of modern economic globalization, many tend to claim that they have been taken advantage of.
The positive-summers choose to open arms and join hands. They believe that what economic globalization needs now is not a bullet in the head, but a better compass in the hand. They are confident that the world can work out a way together to cushion its negative impact and deliver its benefits to all nations.
The right choice is the latter -- the Xi-style collaborative approach. It stems from the overarching truth of today's world: The life of different peoples and the interests of different countries have become so closely intertwined that mankind has no future but a shared one.
It is also in line with a simple logic for success. As Xi said at Davos, locking oneself in a dark room may keep wind and rain outside, but it will also block light and air. On the contrary, as a Chinese adage says, "Victory is ensured when people pool their strength; success is secured when people put their heads together."
Thus with worldwide brilliant minds gathering in the Alpine town to search for cures for global ailments against a wildfire of isolationist sentiment, it is time to reemphasize Xi's appeal: "When encountering difficulties, we should not complain about ourselves, blame others, lose confidence or run away from responsibilities. We should join hands and rise to the challenge."