This year's overarching theme at Davos -- the "shifting power equation" -- apparently means many things to the throngs gathered here. For some, it crystallized a growing concern that established institutions are losing power. Rogue states and nonstate actors threaten disorder on the global stage, which could take the form of weapons proliferation, terrorism or the spread of AIDS and other deadly diseases. These threats "create an environment in which the things we treasure cannot prosper," Richard N. Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a panel Wednesday called "The Shifting Power Equation: Geopolitics."
For others at this year's World Economic Forum, the theme sparked a debate about whether the United States faces a slow but inevitable decline. Will its dominance be sapped by challenges to its Iraq policy and by the rapid rise of China? Pei Minxin, a senior associate and director of the China program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sharply disputed this notion.