Chinese President Xi Jinping last took part at Davos four years ago before the Trump administration levied huge tariffs on its products. Beijing is now calling for a return to multilateralism.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday said that governments worldwide must do more to work together and put the global economy back on track.
Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Xi said the global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was "rather shaky" and the outlook remained uncertain.
"To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others ... will only push the world into division," said Xi, adding that confrontation would lead to a "dead end."
The WEF is an annual talking shop for the global business and political elite held in the Swiss ski resort Davos. It is being held online this year due to the pandemic.
In a speech to leaders later Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world was not only facing a pandemic and economic crisis, but also "existential threats" to the climate and biodiversity. He pointed to geopolitical division and the growing risks of nuclear and chemical proliferation.
"We have reached a moment of truth. In 2021 we must address these fragilities and put the world on track," Guterres said.
"We count on businesses to play an important role by themselves and to put pressure on governments to do the right thing," he said. "We need you more than ever to help us change course, end fragility, avert climate catastrophe and build the equitable and sustainable future we want and we need."
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) noted that many European start-ups ended up becoming American. To prevent this from happening, "we have to make sure that the European model looks more attractive," he said.
Green technologies could help realize both climate and economic ambitions, Altmaier said, appealing for increased cooperation between the developed and developing world on innovations such as tapping hydrogen as an energy source.
Herbert Diess, the chief executive of Volkswagen, said European manufacturers stood to profit from sourcing parts from all over the world, not just from Europe, adding that Chinese engineers play a vital role for the German car maker's technologies.
Although trade talks with Beijing remained tough and the country's democracy had not been developing fast enough, Diess said that "trade, communicating, being there, participating is much better" than moving away from China.
US President Joe Biden will not appear at the one-week online gathering in the week following his inauguration.
The Kremlin on Monday announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin would address the conference, according to Interfax. Putin, who has not appeared at the forum since 2009, was not on the list of participants published prior to the event. His planned appearance, expected on Wednesday, comes at a moment when the West is weighing new sanctions against Russia for its treatment of Alexei Navalny.
The January 2020 WEF, which took place in its usual Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, saw the global elite just starting to worry about a pandemic that surfaced in China a month earlier.
A year on, the coronavirus is leaving a mounting death toll, upending economies and depriving millions of people of work.
And initial optimism about a swift, smooth vaccine rollout ending the pandemic has ebbed in the face of distribution hiccups and new virus variants.
But China and Asian countries in 2021 are making a strong comeback from the virus that hit them first.