Where are the Chinese executives?

1507.jpgMay 2008 | By Elena Escagedo, Director of Open Enrolment Programs at IE Business School, Executive Education

Give me the name of a high-level Chinese business executive. Canâ??t think of one? And who is the owner of this Asian superpowerâ??s largest business fortune? Donâ??t know that either? Well, neither does anyone else, actually: so whatâ??s going on in Beijing?

China has been growing at double-digit rates for several years now. India is growing somewhat slower but also shows spectacular development. China is currently the fourth largest economy in the world and if the dollar continues to fall, it will quite possibly be the leading economy on the planet in a short period of time. Moreover, if this trend of growth in China and India continues, both economies will represent around 25% of the world GDP by the year 2025.

Although this information is well known, there is one question that needs to be asked about these countries: why are there Indian executives in important executive positions in some 30 companies on the Fortune 500 and yet there are no Chinese executives on the list? Paradigmatic cases include the Pepsico CEO (Indra Nooyi, a woman) and that of Vodafone (Arun Sarin). However, we can go even further: why, according to the Forbes magazine, are entrepreneurs of Indian origin among the ten richest people in the world while there are no Chinese entrepreneurs? The only entrepreneur of Chinese origin in the ranking of the 50 richest people in the world (in tenth place) is Li Ka Shing, with his Cheung Kong Holdings conglomerate, whose flagship is Hutchinson Wampoa, world leader in seaport management. Li Ka Shing was born in Guangdong, China in 1928 but has developed his career in Hong Kong since the 1950s. Meanwhile, Forbes places four Indian entrepreneurs (Lakshmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani and Kushal Pal Singh) in fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth position of the 50 richest people in the world.

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