Chinese President Xi Jinping’s strong defense of globalization at a speech at the World Economic Forum was depicted here as an effort to fill a vacuum being created by the U.S. stepping back from a global leadership role.

Mr. Xi was seen as reacting to growing concerns that the incoming U.S. administration of Donald Trump would shift the world’s largest economy toward protectionism.

In an hour-long speech before a packed hall of 1,600 delegates, Mr. Xi portrayed further globalization as a historical trend and outlined China’s contributions that had benefited the rest of the world. He also acknowledged that while economic globalization had boosted global wealth, the consequence had also been growing inequalities.

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