Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

DAVOS, Switzerland — The question of whether China is a partner or a predator hung over the World Economic Forum this year.

One Davos veteran told Axios the Chinese participants were the "rockstars" of this year's forum. "Every panel has one or two Chinese people, speaking perfect English. They used to linger in the back. Now they are setting the agenda," she said.

  • Another said attendees tend to be sympathetic to China, both for economic reasons and "because they don't understand the Chinese model" and desire for influence around the world.
  • Both asked not to be named because they weren't representing the views of their companies.

The big picture: With all that in mind, three fresh perspectives on what we should make of China's investments around the world, particularly in Africa:

1. Chin Okeke, a Nigerian-born, Mandarin-speaking entrepreneur, said at a panel on the Davos sidelines: "If China is a welcome alternative to what we've had before, and if what China is offering is more attractive, then other players have to step up."

  • On Chinese "debt traps," he said: "As much as we point at China ... as a Nigerian I'd rather look inward, and look at the corruption of African leaders" who are making these deals.

2. Lina Benabdallah, a professor at Wake Forest University, writes in Foreign Policy that if President Trump really wants to counter China's influence in Africa, the U.S. "needs to recognize how China’s influence actually works."

  • "Chinese presidents and premiers make a point of making official trips to Africa as soon as possible after taking office. ... Every year, the Chinese government sponsors thousands of exchange visits, short-term trainings, and scholarships for civil servants, young entrepreneurs, and high-ranking military officers."

3. Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes for Axios Expert Voices about a growing worry that "China is using Belt and Road for political gain."

  • "History is filled with examples of states using foreign infrastructure to access territory, harvest resources, shape government policy, dominate technology, and undercut their competitors. In many ways, China is merely updating the playbook used by Western powers during the 19th and 20th centuries to expand its influence."

Go deeper: Trump's new Africa strategy aims to counter China, Russia

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. EST: 32,135,220 — Total deaths: 981,660 — Total recoveries: 22,149,441Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m EST: 6,975,980 — Total deaths: 202,738 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,481,026Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats prepare new $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief package.
  4. Health: Cases are surging again in 22 states — New York will conduct its own review of coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: America is closing out its strongest quarter of economic growth.
  6. Technology: 2020 tech solutions may be sapping our resolve to beat the pandemic.
  7. Sports: Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic — Here's what college basketball will look like this season.
  8. Science: Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China — During COVID-19 shutdown, a common sparrow changed its song.
5 hours ago - Sports

Pac-12 will play football this fall, reversing course

A view of Levi's Stadium during the 2019 Pac-12 Championship football game. Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Pac-12, which includes universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, will play football starting Nov. 6, reversing its earlier decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The conference's about-face follows a similar move by the Big Ten last week and comes as President Trump has publicly pressured sports to resume despite the ongoing pandemic. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game conference football season, according to ESPN.

Dave Lawler, author of World
6 hours ago - World

Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.

Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!