China's President Xi Jinping on Monday asked world governments to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and increase the role of the Group of 20 in international policy governance.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum - a gathering usually held at a Swiss ski resort - Xi said the international economic outlook remained uncertain and public health emergencies "may very well recur" in future.

Xi, making his first appearance at the forum since his defense of free trade and globalization at an address in Davos in 2017, struck a similar tone - advocating multilateralism as the way out of current challenges in a 25-minute speech.

"We should build an open world economy...discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems and take down barriers to trade, investment and technological exchanges," he said.

International governance should be based on rules and consensus, instead of on orders given by one or the few, Xi added.

"The world is undergoing changes unseen in a century, and now is the time for major development and major transformation," he said.

Xi's speech came just five days after Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. president.

Under Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, tensions simmered between the U.S. and China, the world's top two economies, on issues ranging from trade and technology to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the coronavirus.

Xi last spoke at the event in 2017 on the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration as U.S. president.

Four tumultuous years of U.S.-China relations followed; a trade war caused by protectionist Trump policies raised tensions between the world's largest economies while allegations of rights abuses in Xinjiang sparked tit-for-tat sanctions against officials in both countries.

President Biden is likely to continue Trump's strong stance against China, though the current administration intends to cooperate on more issues including climate change.

China's shows of force in Taiwan and the South China Sea will not go unnoticed either and the U.S. issued several statements to condemn military flyovers near the Republic of China last week.

Xi is one of many dignitaries and leaders speaking via video link this week in a series of lectures and panel discussions.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting has been postponed until May when it will be held in Singapore instead.