DAVOS - CHINESE and Russian leaders Wen Jiabao and Vladimir Putin on Wednesday blamed the United States for causing the global economic crisis on a gloomy first day of the Davos forum.
Both called for a new attitude by President Barack Obama, while deepening pessimism over the future of the global economy enshrouded the World Economic Forum.
Chinese premier Wen said America's voracious appetite for debt and 'blind pursuit of profit' had led to the worst recession since the Great Depression which has rocked the 2,500 strong political and business elite gathered in the Swiss mountain resort.
Mr Putin said the disappearance of some Wall Street titans over the past six months testified to the errors committed.
Mr Wen blamed the crisis on 'inappropriate macroeconomic policies of some economies' and 'prolonged low savings and high consumption,' in a lightly veiled attack on the United States.
He blasted the 'excessive expansion of financial institutions in blind pursuit of profit and the lack of self-discipline among financial institutions and ratings agencies' while the 'failure' of regulators had allowed the spread of toxic derivatives.
Mr Wen said the crisis had posed 'severe challenges' for China and that it needed 8.0 per cent growth in 2009 to maintain social stability while the International Monetary Fund predicted 6.7 per cent for this year.
The Chinese leader called for faster reform of international financial institutions and for a 'new world order' for the economy.
The Russian prime minister followed him to the podium and said the crisis had been a 'perfect storm'.
He also took aim at US banks and the outgoing US administration.
'Although the crisis was simply hanging in the air, the majority strove to get their share of the pie, be it one dollar or one billion, and did not want to notice the rising wave.'
Mr Putin insisted that he would not join critics of the United States, but added: 'I just want to remind you that just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasised the US economy's fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects.'
Condoleezza Rice, when US secretary of state, gave a speech in Davos last year saying the US economy was safe.
'Today investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just 12 months they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism,' said Mr Putin.
Mr Putin called for a constructive attitude from Mr Obama in international affairs. 'We wish the new team success. I hope they are willing to cooperate constructively,' he said.
US tensions with China have been raised in recent days with new US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner saying Mr Obama believes China manipulates its currency to gain an edge in trade.
'In meeting the international financial crisis, it is imperative for the two countries to enhance cooperation, that is my message to the US administration,' Mr Wen said.
Three decades of formalised ties between the United States and communist China had shown that 'a peaceful and harmonious relationship will make both sides winners, while a confrontational one will leave both losers,' he added.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and the British and Japanese prime ministers Gordon Brown and Taro Aso - who have between them spent hundreds of billions of dollars battling the crisis - were also among about 40 heads of state or government who will speak this week.
But with much attention on Mr Obama's efforts to get a US$825 billion (S$1.24 trillion) stimulus package through Congress and grim new IMF predictions for the world economy, the forum has been a dark affair.
There were plenty of critics among the record attendance at Davos of the measures against the crisis taken so far.
South Africa's Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said wealthy nations appeared to be adopting a 'lemming-like approach, trying to get to the precipice without knowing what their money would buy.'
'The crisis is getting worse,' said the News Corp media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. 'It's going to take drastic action to turn it around, if it can be turned around quickly. Personally, I believe it will take some time.' -- AFP