Spotlight on China: The Race to Internationalise Talent

Spotlight on China: The Race to Internationalise Talent

Published 10th September 2019
Belinda Jenkins

HCLI Editor & Contributor

Published 10th September 2019

Encouraged by the connectivity of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese enterprises are entering a new era of globalisation. The Shanghai Foreign Service Group (FSG) suggests that within the next five to 10 years, China will see the growth of even more flagship enterprises with leading international and multinational operations: and central to global competitiveness lie international talent management and development.

A leading expert in global leadership and Global Mindsets, Mansour Javidan, is familiar with the role of leaders as seen through a Chinese cultural lens. Empathising that leadership in a multicultural environment is difficult and complicated, he maintains that leaders with a high level of Global Mindset are more likely to succeed in working with people from other cultures. [1] 

“A global mindset is the set of individual qualities and attributes that help a manager influence individuals, groups, and organisations from other parts of the world”.[2] 

Why global leaders from China are needed

Chinese companies are going global, and our Leadership Mosaics research identified several reasons why both multinationals and Chinese enterprises need to develop global leaders from China.

China is becoming a more significant focus for many multinational organisations. In one of our interviews, a country CEO for China in a global FMCG responded: "We must have a talent pool that is comfortable and successful in operating in China but also knows how to leverage the strength of being part of a multinational".[3] They further expressed the need to continue to localise their talent pool, but at the same time, develop Chinese emerging leaders into global leaders.

When it comes to Chinese companies going global, a number of interviewees were of the opinion that their talent strategy tends to leverage local leadership. Chinese leaders headquartered in China will no less require global competencies (e.g. relationship-building across borders) for their organisations to become truly global.[4]

International Talent Allocation and Development for Chinese Enterprises

FSG analysed the development and talent allocation strategies of more than 500 Chinese companies who have expanded beyond China, and foreign-funded enterprises whose Asia-Pacific headquarters are located in China. Through comparing these talent practices with those of multinationals, they recommend that enterprises:[5]

  • Build an international talent team with cultural synergy, competency and operational excellence for global competitiveness and leadership influence.
  • Continue to develop and rapidly grow specialised talent allocation and development systems, that parallel the sophisticated practices of multinational enterprises.
  • Accelerate attraction and development of senior management teams with global experience and leadership, and steadily promote localisation and development of middle managers and professionals in the countries they are invested. (In respect to talent localisation, Chinese enterprises commonly "dispatch talent", whereas multinationals hire locally to serve local markets).
  • Strengthen customised training to enhance multinational and local management ability and address leadership competence for talent at all levels. As mentioned earlier, senior executives require international work experience and development, and middle managers localisation and leadership competency. Areas of common concern for multinationals and Chinese Enterprises are 'local operation and management ability', and 'relationships with local governments and communities'. Foreign enterprises cite 'Leadership and influence' as their primary challenge. By contrast, this tends to be a 'low' concern for Chinese Enterprises.
  • Chinese enterprises venturing into foreign markets are advised to build competent international talent teams and establish salary and benefit management systems to not only support global talent attraction and development but to also elevate the employee experience.

The Shanghai Foreign Service (Group) is the largest professional human resources service company in mainland China, serving 2 million Chinese employees from more than 30,000 multinational corporations in China. Our thanks to Shanghai FSG for their translation of the Research Report on International Talent Allocation and Development for Chinese Enterprises, which you can access directly here

[1] Javidan, M. (2010) “Bringing the Global Mindset to Leadership”, Harvard Business Review, May 19.

[2] Javidan, M (2017) “Why Global Mindset is Essential”,

[3] Leadership Mosaics Across Asia: Building Global Leaders For China, From China (2016) Human Capital Leadership Institute, p18.

[4] Leadership Mosaics Across Asia: Building Global Leaders For China, From China (2016) Human Capital Leadership Institute, p18.

[5] Luo Xiangjun (2019) International Talent Allocation and Development for Chinese Enterprises, Shanghai Foreign Services Group (FSG) Sep.


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