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Press Release

Exiting China is an Unpopular Choice for Europe’s CEOs


Brussels, February 27, 2024…While two thirds of Europe’s CEOs are planning to change their supply chains over the next two to five years, less than two percent plan to exit China, according to a new report from The Conference Board. Appetite for decoupling from China is less popular among Europe’s CEOs than among peers in any other surveyed region.

Instead, CEOs who are looking to change their supply chains are focused on diversifying vendors in friendly countries, and using technology/AI to improve performance tracking. Of the CEOs making changes, almost half (45%) cite supply chain resiliency and lower risk of disruptions as the two biggest motivators. Greening supply chains is the third most important reason, cited by 34% of Europe’s CEOs–a far higher number than in other regions.

The Conference Board report, Leading for Tomorrow: Europe Edition, draws on data from the organization’s annual C-Suite Outlook, which reflects the views of more than 1200 executives, including more than 630 CEOs. Participants weighed in on the top business threats and opportunities in 2024. Respondents were primarily from four regions: the United States, Latin America, Japan, and Europe.

Despite significant concerns about increasing geopolitical tensions, European business leaders are very reluctant to exit China”, said Sara Murray, Managing Director, The Conference Board International. “At the same time, they are more interested than peers in other regions in reorienting supply chains towards friendlier countries. This double bind reflects Europe’s comparatively weak competitive position at the moment. From our discussions with CEOs, China remains an unignorable market opportunity for European business, and many senior executives are focused on defending their China operations from global upheavals. After decades of investing in China and building their position in the market, most are unwilling to walk away from China’s industrial ecosystem.

Highlight from the report include:


Amid muted growth prospects in 2024, CEOs fear a recession. 

  • Europe’s CEO: They rank recession as the #1 external concern for their business for 2024.
  • Global CEOs: Recession is also the #1 external concern among executives globally.

Worries about a global financial crisis are higher in Europe than elsewhere:

  • Europe’s CEOs: They rank the risk of a global financial crisis as a top-five concern (#5).
  • Global CEOs: By contrast, global CEOs rank the risk of a global financial crisis at #9. 

Cost of borrowing climbs the agenda:

  • Europe’s CEOs: Worry about the cost of borrowing has climbed to #4 in 2024, up from #17 in 2023, as higher interest rates weigh on investment decisions and business sentiment.
  • Global CEOs: Concern has also climbed to #4 globally.


Europe’s CEOs worry more about geopolitics:

  • Europe’s CEOs: Escalating tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East are CEOs #2 concern.
  • Global CEOs: By contrast, geopolitical instability ranks #7 in the US, and #4 in Japan and Latin America.


Europe’s CEOs are keen on maintaining and improving the hybrid working environment:

  • Europe’s CEOs: They rank it as the #4 human capital priority for 2024.
  • Global CEOs: By contrast, it is ranked as the #10 priority worldwide.

Strengthening organizational culture, and attracting and retaining talent are critical:

  • Europe’s CEO: They rank organizational culture as the top human capital priority, followed by retaining talent at #2.
  • Global CEOs: For global CEOs, skills development is the top priority, followed by strengthening organizational culture.

European business leaders clearly feel more concerned about the impact of global disruption than their counterparts elsewhere. At the same time, there are some bright spots in the data: European CEOs are leading the way in AI implementation, with high expectations that it will drive major the productivity gains that European executives are urgently seeking. European CEOs are also more positive regarding the transition to renewable energy than in the US. Overall, it is a mixed picture for the European economy”, said Dino Panitsas, Economist at The Conference Board Europe.

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