How the Chinese middle market is taking center stage in the global marketplace
China’s dynamic middle market is set to achieve exceptional growth rates with its sights firmly set on international expansion, EY Growth Barometer 2018 reveals. As economic power pivots East, Chinese entrepreneurs are harnessing domestic technology expertise, homegrown talent and process efficiencies to fuel growth.
EY Growth Barometer survey methodology
EY commissioned Euromoney Institutional Investor Thought Leadership to undertake an online survey of 2,766 C-suite (60% CEOs, founders or managing directors) in companies from 21 countries and with annual revenues of US$1m-US$3b. The survey was conducted from 15 January-1 March 2018. EY further invited the network of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ alumni from across the globe to take the survey. The survey was available in English and six other languages. Further in-depth interviews were carried out during March-April 2018 to provide additional specific insights.
Greater China Strategic Growth Markets and IPO Leader
Ernst & Young Hua Ming LLP
安永委托Euromoney Institutional Investor Thought Leadership对来自 21个国家/地区、年收入达100万美元至30亿美元的公司的2,766名高级管理人员（60%为CEO、创始人或董事总经理）开展在线调查。调查时间为2018年1月15日至3月1日。安永进一步在全球范围邀请“安永企业家奖”(EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™) 历届获奖者参与调查。本次调查使用英语和六种其他语言。进一步的深入采访开展于2018年3月至4月，提供了更多的深刻见解。
Confidence is rocketing in the Chinese middle market. More than four out of 10 (43%) of the country’s C-suite expect to grow by more than 10% in the next 12 months, according to the 2018 EY Growth Barometer. The optimistic figures reflect the International Monetary Fund’s 2018 growth forecast of 6.6% for China.1
Center stage in the global marketplace
In October 2017, President Xi Jinping memorably declared that China should “take center stage in the world”2 – and the middle market’s growth strategies are putting them at the very heart of the global marketplace. More than one-third (35%) see entry into new international markets as their strategic growth priority, with over one-quarter (27%) citing overseas expansion as central to evaluating new business ventures. This confidence comes despite recent rocky trade relations between Xi Jinping’s Government and President Trump’s US administration. And it is confidence that will surely only grow as China’s near-$1t Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, connecting 60 countries, progresses.
When the home nation is as uniquely large and self-reliant as China, however, exports are not the only avenue for growth. More than one-fifth (22%) of the country’s business leaders prioritize domestic expansion, with the same percentage pursuing M&A opportunities. More than three-quarters (78%) are planning IPOs, almost twice that for the rest of the world (42%) – a further sign of the middle market’s bullishness.
Revenue growth projections
This chart shows growth expectations for 2017 and 2018, ranging from negative growth to growth above 50%, including year-on-year percentage point changes.
中国中型市场的信心剧增。根据2018年安永《增长晴雨表》，中国超过十分之四 (43%) 的高级管理人员预计未来12个月的增长率超过10%。这个乐观的数据反映出国际货币基金组织对中国2018年的增长预测 (6.6%)。1
2017年10月，中国国家主席习近平明确宣布，中国进入“日益走近世界舞台中央、不断为人类作出更大贡献的时代”2，而中型市场的增长战略使之成为全球市场的核心。超过三分之一 (35%) 的受访者将进入新的全球市场视为其战略增长重心，超过四分之一 (27%) 的受访者认为海外扩张对于评估新企业至关重要。中美近来的贸易摩擦并没有影响这一信心。随着中国连接60国、耗资近一万亿美元的“一带一路”基础设施计划的推进，这一信心定会增长。
如果一个国家像中国这样强大和独立，那么出口不再是唯一的增长渠道。中国超过五分之一 (22%) 的企业领导者将重心放在国内扩张上，寻求并购机会的领导者也达到同样的比例。超过四分之三 (78%) 的领导者正在规划 IPO，是世界其他地区 (42%) 的近两倍，进一步体现了其中型市场的光明前景。
Embracing business change
China intends to be the global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) by 20303 – and its middle market is, again, already ahead of the pack. Chinese respondents lead their global peers in adoption of AI, with 10% already using it and a further 77% planning to do so within two years. “We are looking very closely at AI,” says Fan Ling, founder and CEO of Tezign, an online workforce platform. “The firm has already developed a deep learning tool that can identify the design and creative elements of any given design work.”
Almost all (99%) Chinese respondents say they will have implemented AI by 2023. This marks a huge turnaround on last year, when 91% said they would never use robotic process automation, another cognitive technology. This swift U-turn reflects the dizzying speed of change that is transforming the global business environment; no wonder that 27% of executives in China and the rest of the world see rapid decision making as the key to agility.
As China accelerates its tech prowess, some commentators suggest that the Greater Bay Area, which includes Hong Kong and Macau, could eventually rival Silicon Valley.4 And the survey shows that the middle market is fast embracing technology as an enabler. Around one-third (33%) consider tech as the biggest contributor to improved productivity, second only to economies of scale (41%). However, with more than half of Chinese respondents earmarking technology investment for the more traditional roles of improving process efficiencies (28%) or improving financial data (27%), opportunities exist to invest in the more cutting-edge areas of new technology, such as creating new business models and improving the customer experience. Indeed, the customer is already much more prominent when it comes to means of increasing innovation: 41% prioritize the use of customer data, compared with 28% elsewhere.
This chart illustrates companies’ priorities when they are hiring new talent.
The top innovation driver is regulation – cited by 40%, compared with 24% in the rest of the world. And although China’s burgeoning business strength follows its shift from a controlled economy to freer markets, 28% believe that more regulation would be the best government action to boost growth. “The Chinese Government has been very active in using regulation to stimulate the economy,” says Terence Ho, Greater China Strategic Growth Markets and IPO Leader, EY. “One example is unicorns, where the Government is supporting them through taxation and priority for IPOs.”
中国希望到2030年成为人工智能 (AI) 领域的全球领导者3，而其中型市场再次走在了前沿。在AI的采用率方面，中国受访者领先于全球同行，10%的受访者已在使用这项技术，另外77%的受访者打算在两年内启用这项技术。“我们非常关注 AI，”在线人才平台特赞创始人兼 CEO 范凌说道，“公司已开发了一款深度学习工具，能够识别任何给定设计作品的设计和创意元素。”
近乎所有 (99%) 的中国受访者表示，他们会在2023年之前实施 AI。这标志着较之去年的一个重大转变，当时有91%的受访者表示他们永远都不会使用机器人流程自动化（另一项认知科技）。这一U型反转反映了全球商业环境的飞快变革；难怪在中国和世界其他地区，有27%的高管将快速决策视为敏捷性的关键。
随着中国加速发展其科技实力，一些评论者认为包括香港和澳门在内的粤港澳大湾区可能最终会与硅谷相抗衡。4调查显示，中型市场正在快速地接纳科技作为其推动动力。约有三分之一 (33%) 的受访者将科技视为改善生产力的最主要因素，仅次于规模经济 (41%)。但是，超过半数的中国受访者将科技投资用于改善流程效率 (28%) 或改善财务数据 (27%) 等更为传统的职能，因此存在着投资于更先进的新科技领域的机遇，例如打造新的商业模式以及改善客户体验。在增加创新的方式方面，客户的确已经变得重要得多：41%的受访者将客户数据的利用列为重心，而世界其他地区的比例仅为28%。
此图显示了2017年和2018年有意在未来10年内应用人工智能 (AI) 的公司数量的巨大变动。
40%的受访者认为创新的第一大推动力是监管，而世界其他地区的这一比例为24%。尽管从管制经济到自由市场的转变让中国获得强大的商业实力，但仍有28%的受访者认为加强监管会是政府促进增长的最佳措施。“中国政府一直非常积极地利用监管来刺激经济，”安永大中华区战略性高增长市场及上市服务主管何兆烽先生表示，“例如独角兽公司，中国政府通过减税以及优先 IPO 来支持这些公司。”
“The Chinese Government has been very active in using regulation to stimulate the economy.”
"例如独角兽公司，中国政府通过减税以及优先 IPO 来支持这些公司。"
Challenges to growth
More than half of Chinese executives (53%) highlight insufficient cash flow as the biggest operational challenge to growth, up 35 percentage points and significantly higher than the rest of the world (32%). This may reflect the constant pressure to invest to stay abreast of change as evolving sales cycles, industry convergence, unpredictable online buying patterns, the move from bricks-and-mortar to e-commerce, and the need to invest quickly to satisfy developing consumer demands all increase demand for ready money.
Challenges to growth
This chart outlines the key operational challenges that are restraining growth in the middle market.
Reflecting their international ambitions, when it comes to external threats, almost half of Chinese respondents (46%) cite slow/flat global growth as the greatest risk to growth. This is nearly twice that of the rest of the world (24%) and a striking 41 percentage points up on 2017. By contrast, geopolitical uncertainty is the greatest risk for only 7%: with global tensions in plentiful supply, it seems geopolitical risks are only notable when they threaten economic growth.
Demographics could signal trouble
Meanwhile, 40% see demographic shifts as the biggest disruptive force. While their views are in line with the rest of the world, Chinese companies have particular reason to be concerned: the country’s workforce is due to decline sharply over the next three decades, while the number of older people requiring state support will rise.5
超过半数的中国高管 (53%) 强调现金流不足是实现增长的最大运营挑战，这一比例提高了35个百分点，且显著高于世界其他地区 (32%)。这或反映出通过投资紧跟变革的持续压力，因为不断发展的销售周期、产业融合、难以预见的在线消费模式、从实体到电子商务的变革以及快速投资以满足不断发展的消费者需求的必要性都会提高对现金的需求。
对于外部威胁，近一半的中国受访者 (46%) 认为全球经济增长放缓/持平是实现增长的最大风险，体现出他们走向世界的抱负。这一比例是全球其他地区 (24%) 的近两倍，并且比2017年惊人地提高了41个百分点。相比之下，仅有7%的受访者认为地缘政治不确定性是最大的风险：鉴于全球供应的紧张局面，地缘政治风险或许只有在威胁到经济增长时才会引起关注。
Building stronger teams
For the time being at least, businesses remain confident about securing essential talent. Reflecting their confident growth prospects, 40% intend to hire more full-time staff. Only 9% plan to keep staffing levels the same, versus 36% in the rest of the world. At odds with the global trend, 21% of Chinese business leaders also plan to hire more contractors. Lack of skilled talent – an acute problem in many developed markets – does not trouble China. Just 3% of the country’s middle market see a lack of skilled talent as the greatest operational challenge to growth, compared with 14% elsewhere. China does, however, maintain a clear focus on the right skill set, with almost one-third (32%) highlighting talent with the right skills as the top accelerator of growth. Hau Cheong Ho, CFO of real estate developer Hang Lung Properties, says: “We recognize the need to bring in more people, and younger people ...people who know and understand the power and use of mobile technology and who understand how the modern customer thinks and behaves.” In line with the desire to attract such recruits, for almost half (48%), the ideal organization is one that attracts younger, digitally native talent.
Benefiting from diversity
China is at the forefront of the worldwide push for more diversity: 62% cite diversity as their strategic talent priority – up a remarkable 52 percentage points and substantially above elsewhere (40%). The country already has a good record. According to Harvard Business Review, 31% of senior executive positions in China were filled by women last year, compared with 23% in the US and 17% for its fellow global growth leader, India.6 However, diversity has many forms, as EY’s Ho points out: “In China, diversity means more than gender; in a country of this size, with so many provinces, diversity is also about embracing people from different regions and cultures.”
至少在现在，企业依然有信心招聘到必要的人才。40%的受访者打算招聘更多全职员工，体现出他们对增长前景信心十足。只有9%的受访者打算维持相同的人员配置水平，而世界其他地区的这一比例为36%。与全球趋势不同的是，21%的中国企业领导者还打算雇用更多合同工。困扰很多发达市场的高技能人才短缺问题在中国并不是一个问题。中国仅有3%的中型市场参与者认为缺乏高技能人才是实现增长的最大运营挑战，而世界其他地区的比例为14%。但是，中国依然在关注合适的综合技能，近三分之一 (32%) 的受访者强调拥有合适技能的人才是最有力的增长加速器。房地产开发商恒隆地产 CFO 何厚祥说道：“我们认识到需要招募更多人才和年轻人，我们需要知道并了解移动技术的力量和使用的人才，以及了解现代客户的想法和行为的人才。” 与吸引此类员工的要求相一致，近一半 (48%) 的受访者认为理想的企业是那些能够吸引“数字原生代”年轻人才的企业。
中国走在全球多元化浪潮的前沿：62%的受访者认为多元化是其战略人才重心，这一比例大幅增长了 52个百分点，并且显著高于世界其他地区 (40%)。中国在这方面已经有了很好的成绩。据《哈佛商业评论》，中国去年有31%的高管职位由女性担任，美国的这一比例为23%，而同为全球增长领导者的印度为17%。 但是，多元化也呈现出很多种形式，正如安永的何兆烽先生所指出的：“在中国，多元化的意义不仅是性别；在省份如此之多的一个大国，多元化还意味着接纳来自不同地区和文化背景的人。”