In a trip to several European countries this past week, University President Richard Levin said he worked primarily to meet with Yale parents and alumni abroad but also spent time giving public talks on how to improve the global economy.
As part of an annual trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Levin gave one interview to Bloomberg and participated in two panels in which he discussed the role of China and the United States in the global economy. Levin, who received a doctorate in economics from Yale in 1973, urged China to spend some of its $3.2 trillion in foreign reserves on its own economy. Three faculty members who went on the trip commended Levin’s ability to remain relevant in his field of academia while serving as University president.
“His presence on the stage at Davos is a testament to his ongoing influence as an economist as well as a global leader in higher education,” environmental law and policy professor Daniel Esty LAW ’86 said in an email from Davos. “Yale gets enormous value by having a president with a big worldwide reputation.
Levin’s first panel featured a discussion titled “How Should China Spend Its Trillions?” that was broadcast on China Central Television, China’s state-owned television agency.
In the discussion — which also featured John Zhao, head of China’s largest private equity fund, and Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization — Levin said China’s refusal to spend its foreign reserves on its own people could exacerbate existing social problems in China.
“China is going to have a third of its population in retirement in 2050 given the years of one-child policy,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “That means pay-as-you-go retirement is fundamentally unsound. Either it’s going to be funded by its own savings or funded or partially funded through social security.”
Refusing to spend foreign reserves has also led to the Chinese yuan being undervalued, which Levin said damages China’s reputation with global trading partners.
Levin also spoke at a panel about the current state of the American economy, and he addressed the decrease in social mobility in the U.S. economy in a Monday interview with Bloomberg.
Several Yale faculty members joined Levin in Davos, including Esty, economics professor Robert Shiller ENG ’60, and School of Management senior fellow Stephen Roach.
“My personal opinion is that university presidents are in a position of leadership that extends beyond the university — they have a responsibility to all of humankind,” Schiller said. “To use this leadership effectively, they have to fall back on the expertise that they have.”
The World Economic Forum first met in 1971, when it was called the European Management Forum.