China’s economy, and the number of big global businesses with a presence there, has absolutely exploded over the past decade — but the number of executives with local experience and global chops hasn’t kept up.
The result is a large and growing shortage of local executive talent.
A job posting encountered by the FT’s Andrew Hill highlights how big the problem is. A Shenzhen-based company wanted a candidate who was:
- Fluent in Mandarin
- Able to communicate in fluent, idiomatic English with superiors in Europe or the United States
- Completely comfortable with Chinese business culture
- Already embedded in China, but willing to relocate at any time.
- Familiar with both local consumer habits and big global trends
That’s quite a list. And there simply aren’t many people that fit the bill.
Hill spoke to Katherine Xin, a management professor at Shanghai’s China Europe International Business School, who estimated that the number of mainland Chinese executives capable of competing at the highest levels of global business is “in the low thousands only.”
So on one side, you have Chinese companies trying to grow outside their own borders, and international companies trying to access the massive Chinese market. The result is a massive talent crunch, and a high poach rate.
The competition is so fierce that some companies are reluctant to spend the time or money on training local talent abroad, because they expect them to be poached.
Importing expatriates is far from ideal, and even Taiwanese, Hong Kong based, or returning Chinese emigres can take a long time to understand or adapt to the mainland.
Until Chinese business education dramatically improves or companies significantly invest in management training, there’s going to be a shortage.
As much as a problem as this is for Chinese companies and global companies active in China, it’s also a huge opportunity for people willing to commit to a career in the country.
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