China posted a 6.8% decline in its first-quarter GDP after suffering the first blows of the COVID-19 pandemic. But China is also the first country to move towards a recovery. In this key moment, the Stanford China Program, in collaboration with alumni members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, surveyed 135 senior executives from private and publicly-listed enterprises in China, as well as China offices of international MNCs, as Chinese companies rebooted their operations. As the above quote attests, however, the road to recovery hardly had a map attached and still lies inside unmarked territories for most.
On June 10th, the Shorenstein APARC China Program convened a two-part virtual program titled “Rebooting Business after COVID-19: A View from China.” Two Stanford Graduate School of Business alumni, Christopher Thomas, currently of Tsinghua University, and Xue (Xander) Wu, China Mobile (USA), set forth major takeaways from China Program’s survey and described how COVID-19 has differentially impacted different segments of China’s businesses. Professor Jean Oi, Director of the APARC China Program and William Haas Professor of Chinese Politics, explained the larger context behind China’s recovery and the motivation for our survey. Describing the situation as “living in different worlds,” presenters highlighted the difference especially between high tech and online companies versus other industries, and between large (>1,000 employees) and small firms in China. Small and medium firms, they found, are currently far more likely to be facing economic distress and implementing “emergency measures.” High-tech and online companies, on the other hand, displayed more than twice as much optimism regarding their future as did companies in other industries. Survey findings also captured deep concerns generated by current geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China, including the potential for limited access to global technology.
In the second half of the program, a panel of distinguished CxOs from China, including Alvin Shiqi Wang (王世琪), CEO and President of 21Vianet Group, Inc.; Xiang Wang (王翔), President of Xiaomi Corporation; Simon Yang (杨士宁), CEO of Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd.; and Zhiqiang (ZZ) Zhang (张志强), President of ABB (China), offered rich perspectives on how they managed to safeguard their employees and business operations during the pandemic, rolling challenges posed by COVID-19, and their companies’ futures.
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