CEOs of Multinational Corporations Remain Cautiously Optimistic about China
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International CEO Confidence

CEOs of Multinational Corporations Remain Cautiously Optimistic about China

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Insights for What’s Ahead: The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™

Insights for What’s Ahead: The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™

  • The Measure of CEO Confidence™ for China inched up marginally, from 54 six months ago to 56, indicating that sentiment remains cautiously optimistic. The measure ranges from 0 to 100, with a reading below 50 points reflecting more negative than positive responses. The combined effect of market, economic, regulatory, and geopolitical factors are leading to a new competitive reality and challenging old notions about the China opportunity. Consumption remains weak even as competition is intensifying, as local firms fight ‘tooth and nail’ for market share. Meanwhile, risks emanating from geopolitical tensions are rising, in turn forcing a rethinking of China’s role as a market and as a key link in global supply chains.
  • CEO sentiment around current and future business conditions edged up slightly. The improvement was mainly driven by a reduction in outright negative sentiment, and not by an improvement in positive sentiment. Accordingly, many CEOs said that conditions are the same as six months ago, and will be the same six months ahead.
  • Demand is improving but has yet to reach pre-COVID levels for the majority of MNCs. While more than half of surveyed CEOs are seeing an improvement in market demand (vs. 26% in H2 2023), more than 60% also said that demand remains below pre-COVID levels. Views about the long-term potential are considerably more positive, with 51% of CEOs saying that Chinese demand will be at least above average globally five years from now, and 26% that it will be on par with other major markets.
  • CEOs views on the sales and investment outlook for China have improved, but the same cannot be said about the outlook for hiring. Some 55% of CEOs expect an increase in sales in China over the next six months, while 10% expect a decrease. This compares favorably with the H2 2023 numbers of 46% and 17%, respectively. Regarding investment, although fewer CEOs (19% vs. 24%) anticipate an increase compared to H2 2023, 58% expect invest
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