Challenges facing expats and international businesses in China

Challenges facing expats and international businesses in China

As the clock ticks past the two-year anniversary of Covid-19, a lot of the world is planning 2022 as the year where ‘normality’ will return. With a number of countries having a high proportion of their population vaccinated, countries such as the UK are deciding to live with Covid in an attempt to keep the economy moving.

In China, the story is quite different. Due to a series of strict controls and lockdown measures over the past two years, the risk of catching Covid itself has largely been minimised.

One of the policies that has had the biggest impact on businesses was the significant restrictions on foreigners to enter the country since March 2020, a policy which remains in place 2 years later, with no indication of when it will be removed.

Whilst the most obvious impact has been felt by those foreigners who have been unable to travel to China, the other significant impact has been on foreign businesses operating within China.

In a recent survey of British Chamber of Commerce members, the difficulty of Employing Foreign Staff was highlighted as the number one challenge that businesses currently face. This concern has been echoed in similar surveys and reports by other foreign Chambers and businesses.

British businesses expect the number of foreign staff they have in China to decrease this year as the restrictions continue, which results in a variety of operational challenges.

One result has been an increased ‘localisation’ of offices of multinational companies in China, with a lack of any foreign staff in the ground, which can lead to a disconnect with Head Office company culture and working practices and a lack of a bridge between different cultures.

The travel restrictions have also made it virtually impossible for Senior Executives representatives to travel to China to meet with their local teams and to meet with business partners face to face. This can lead to a disconnect between China staff and their global teams as well as missed business opportunities with local partners who place high importance on face to face meetings to establish working relationships.

For expats who are currently living in China, the shrinking of the foreign community here can bring some new opportunities. For expats with specialised  expertise, Chinese language skills and a desire to live and work in China for the medium to long term, then there are some career opportunities available to them as a result of the foreigner shortage.

At Gemini Personnel, we have received many requests for Interim Managers – experts who are available for short-term projects such as restructuring, Supplier/Quality Management and gap-fill projects.

Gemini works with a highly experienced talent pool of predominantly foreign Interim Managers, who since Covid have found themselves in increased demand for their expertise, as well as their capability to be the eyes and ears on the ground in China, and become that important link between company headquarters and their China operations.

If your company is lacking an international presence in your China business and would benefit from the expertise of an Interim Manager, to step in and provide support to your local team, then please do get in touch with our General Manager Barry Kirkwood for a confidential discussion and consultation.