20th CEO Survey China report

What is on the minds of China and Hong Kong CEOs for the year ahead?

Leading through disruption

The Chinese economy continues to undergo complex structural reforms to ensure balanced and steady development and growth. Business outlook for executives in China appears quite positive. To achieve this growth, numerous challenges combined with global economic uncertainty have to be overcome. Intense industry competition, the pace of technological development, changes in consumer spending and behaviour, difficulty with recruiting employees with advanced skills and lack of trust in business were cited as main threats to growth prospects.

Business leaders today have a great opportunity and responsibility to lead through the disruptions by demonstrating purpose and increasing trust. Watch PwC’s Greater China Chairman Raymund Chao share the key insights from our China report.


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Business opportunities in China

CEOs are witnessing upheavals as a result of globalisation and technological change. While this “new normal” in economic conditions is creating new challenges, it is also bringing several opportunities for businesses around the world. And China, being the world’s second largest GDP contributor, is more open for business than ever before. The 20th CEO Survey found that there was an increase in the proportion of executives who are “very confident” about their company’s prospects for revenue growth whether in the next 12 months or over the next 3 years.

Understanding the dynamic China market and adapting to the rapidly changing landscape is key for companies who seek market presence in China. Watch PwC's China and Hong Kong Markets Leader Frank Lyn share the biggest drivers of business opportunities in China, including the Made in China 2025 and the Three Grand Investment Strategies.


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Key insights

Growth in the new economy

There has been a sizeable increase in the proportion of executives who are “very confident” in terms of revenue growth prospects, reflecting growing confidence in the direction of transformation of the Chinese economy.

To drive growth and profitability in the next 12 months, high proportions of executives in China cited organic growth, entering into a new strategic alliance/joint venture and new M&A as the primary activities. To capitalise on new opportunities and to thrive in the current business environment, executives in China also planned to strengthen innovation, digital and technology capabilities and leverage their competitive advantage. China has a thriving start-up and entrepreneurial culture and executives in China told us that this area would also provide opportunities for growth and profitability. 

Increasing trade cooperation between China and countries along the “Belt and Road” routes is expected to lead to substantial demand in international trade financing services in the banking sector as well.

To learn more about Chinese executives’ view of growth in the new economy:

Read our full report

The right talent for the digital age

China's labour market is facing a mismatch of skills demand and supply. Our survey shows that significantly high number of executives are worried about the availability of key skills and in particular,  recruiting people with creativity and innovation, leadership and problem solving skills is challenging.

Majority of executives in Hong Kong and China are looking for talents with digital skills to tackle the speed of technological change and rising demand for digital capabilities. However, not many businesses in China have added digital training to their company’s learning programmes.

Executives anticipate that development of robotics, big data and eventually artificial intelligence will lead to structural changes in the workforce in the next 20 years. Find out how they are adjusting their talent strategy to build a workforce fit for the future. 

Trust in the digital age

In the context of an increasingly digitised world, a high proportion of CEOs in China agree it’s harder for business to gain and keep trust. In order to build and sustain stakeholder trust and confidence, actions such as enhanced management of cybersecurity, digital and data risks are imperative.

Data is an asset for companies and CEOs realise that how they manage people’s data will differentiate them from their competitors. 

To learn more about strategies to leverage trust in the digital age:

Read our full report

Reforming globalisation

CEOs overwhelmingly agree that China has been a beneficiary of globalisation as it has helped to improve the ease of moving capital, people, goods and information, create a skilled and educated labour force and enabled universal connectivity. However, these remarkable achievements have not produced inclusive prosperity for all.

Executives in China told us  that it’s more important to run business in a way that accounts for wider stakeholder expectations. 

To find out more about CEOs' views on achieving greater inclusion:

Technological advancement in the service of mankind

Technology has reshaped the past, and will continue to transform industries in the future. Digital technologies are rapidly advancing beyond the new economy service sectors of e-commerce, media and finance (or Fintech) into other realms of the old economy such as transportation and logistics, tele-medicine, construction, hospitality to capture economic value. Underlying these technology-enabled, data-driven transformations is the use of augmented intelligence to better understand the key problems facing society and business and therefore to find solutions and opportunities. 

To learn more about leveraging technological advancement to stay competitive and to improve people’s well-being:

Read our full report

What do CEOs in China and Hong Kong have to say about today’s issues?


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Dr. Charles Zhang

Chairman of the Board and CEO of Sohu.com Inc., China


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 Alex Arena

Group Managing Director of HKT Ltd., Hong Kong, China

Contact us

Xing Zhou

Managing Partner, North China Markets Leader, Beijing Office Lead Partner, Insurance Industry Leader, Diversity Leader, PwC China

Tel: +[86] (10) 6533 7986

Elton Huang

Managing Partner, Central China Markets Leader, Shanghai Office Lead Partner, Entrepreneurial and Private Business Co-Leader, PwC China

Tel: +[86] (21) 2323 3029

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