TOP

'Why Chinese Companies are Having a Tough Time Recruiting in the U.S.'

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell

|

CHINADebate

|

Julian Ha

Heidrick & Struggles

'Why Chinese Companies are Having a Tough Time Recruiting in the U.S.''Why Chinese Companies are Having a Tough Time Recruiting in the U.S.'
Book
Interview
'

'

|

|
Julian Ha
Interview

|

|
Julian Ha

China Career Killer

‘I have seen senior executives who take on very public roles within some of these Chinese companies find that their life after those companies has been more limited. It even has a bit of a taint. A bit like working for tobacco.

Malcolm Riddell:‘How does China fit into the work you're doing in executive search?’

Julian Ha:‘Just a few years ago, some of the very large Chinese conglomerates - the Anbangs, the HNAs, and the Wandas, and the Huaweis - were all expanding globally but in the U.S. in particular.’

  • ‘And they were all hiring folks at senior levels to help them run the factories, to run the corporate functions, marketing, and so on.’
  • ‘My firm and I helped some of those companies with that recruiting of senior-level executive talent.’

‘More recently, we've seen the other side of the coin.’

  • ‘These Chinese companies have had to pull back, they've had to sell their assets, mostly because of orders from the Chinese government.’
  • ‘With that retraction, we've seen some of those executives move away from these Chinese companies.’

‘But also because of the uncertainty created by the retraction from the U.S. and the rise of anti-China sentiment, the Chinese companies that are still in the game in the U.S. are having a much harder time recruiting talent.’

  • ‘When a Chinese company is being threatened with or actually being put on the Entities List, senior talent think twice about joining.’
  • ‘Potential recruits ask themselves, “Is this something that would be a career-limiting move?”’

‘And they may be right.’

  • ‘I have seen senior executives who took on very public roles within some of these Chinese companies finding that their life after those companies has been more limited.’
  • ‘I would even go so far as to say it has a bit of a taint. A bit like working for big tobacco.’

‘I've done some work for some of those Chinese companies, and it was much harder.’

  • ‘They had to pay a bit more to get talent.’
  • ‘But a lot of potential recruits just said, "Look, I believe in what they're trying to do, it's a good company, but I just can't hitch my wagon to them." ’

Malcolm: ‘That would probably go back, as you said, to the whole question of the Entities List, blacklisting, and the like. How has that had an impact on your work?’

Julian:‘In my practice area - I spearhead our firm's government affairs and public policy work, there has actually been a more compelling need to hire advocates to represent these companies even more vigorously and robustly. But therein lies the challenge.’

  • ‘To attract people for that kind of work in a Chinese company has been harder because people do see, they read the tea leaves and ask, “Okay, well, what if this doesn't work out? Will my experience at this company be valued by other companies as a next step?” And that's getting a little bit murkier.’
  • ‘I don't want to over-generalize. There are some who come out and are able to land something quite well because clients value the experience they've developed, but for many it's become harder.’

Malcolm: ‘And I would assume that's also for less controversial companies. If you're buying real estate, it's probably not the same as having a question as to whether or not you're a potential intruder into U.S. security systems.’

Julian: ‘That's right. I think Alibaba is a good example.’

  • ‘They have a pretty robust Washington office, and they've been able to hire some very good people and continue to talk about what they do.’
  • ‘Because again, it's not as controversial when you're trying to create commerce and match buyers and sellers and manufacturers and producers, whereas if you're manufacturing certain types of equipment or software or other goods, then it becomes a lot harder.’

Malcolm: ‘How impact do you think the Biden administration’s China policy is going to have on what you're doing with the Chinese companies?’

Julian: ‘I think the Biden administration is going to continue to toe the tougher line because I think the Democrats realize that a soft-on-China policy is not going to resonate with many of the voters that supported them.’

  • ‘So the trends I mentioned may be here for a while.’
Go to
Interview