No Chinese in C-Suite?

What It Takes to Lead Globally

In China we often encounter people to ask: why are there so few Chinese in global leadership positions? Especially in the Fortune 500 companies? Sometimes, people would even take one step further to ask: why are there more Indians making to the C-suite than Chinese? 

We have observed many HR consultants or retired senior leaders giving the answer in an opaque manner. Many times we hear it is about communication skills. While it is partially true it is also the most convenient answer one can give. A few times I noticed the speaker rumbling on stage struggling to frame a direct answer. While in other occasions the consultant appears to be very careful and hoping to come across polite and politically correct. 

A seasoned consultant is the one who is able to shed real insights and provide value-added advisory. At Sky Vision we maintain the highest professional standards with utmost respect for every individual and ethnic group. We take pride in our mastery of English and Chinese languages. Having spent a significant amount of time living and working across continents enables us to grasp the essence of issues and share thoughtful perspectives. For a question like this, the answer lies in several components which has to encompass social, historical and cultural contexts.

If you count both the East India Company and the British Raj’s rule in India, the British occupied India for almost 200 years. Integration of the Indian society into the West happened much earlier than a few Chinese elites flirting with the Western ideas in the late Qing Dynasty. English became one of India's official languages and for people with higher education. By and large, an average Indian is more vocal and communicative than her Chinese counterpart. Due to the shared language and its related culture and value, Western people and Indians would often find more in common. Indian people working in corporations would naturally enjoy an advantage in communication and people skills. When it comes to career advancement and promotion, Indians would then have a better “shot” than other Asian nationalities. So it might be true that you would see more Indian-faces in corporate leadership than the Chinese. However the world is changing.    

Providing an answer to this sensitive question is part one, but not the end game. Whatever the reason might be, it is only providing explanation to the status quo. What the speaker should do, as a senior leader or a people strategy consultant is to inspire people and guide people to envision a progressive future. In short the speaker must provide hope and act as a change agent herself. 

To be continued.

Fly This Chinese Airline


If you live in China or travel to China often, perhaps you have flown a few Chinese airlines. How do you choose airlines in China? I was once active with Star Alliance and I tended to go with Air China. Once I relocated to Shanghai I began to fly China Eastern. After almost 10 years loyal with Chinese Eastern, most recently I made a switch. Now the lesser-known China Southern Airlines becomes my main carrier in China. 

Despite its less-talked-about status, China Southern has emerged to be the biggest airline in China and the 4th largest in the world. Currently it operates a modern fleet consisting of 770 aircraft. What I like the most is that they use the newest twin-aisle aircraft on their key domestic routes. I like China Southern’s paring strategy, which also manifests they compete aggressively and they want to keep an edge on the product/journey they are offering. On my frequent travel in between Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing I fly 787 and 777-300ER often. I would definitely go for a 777-300ER if I come across one. Most airlines operate this aircraft for international flights. You barely find it on a domestic route. The cabin feels very bright and Spacious. Air is fresh. Seats are much more comfortable than those designed for domestic-only flights. China Southern has a three-class seating on their 777-300ER. On domestic routes, you can even get a free upgrade to the Premium Economy if you paid a full-fare or a member of their Sky Pearl Club. I have flown this aircraft often in between Shanghai and Guangzhou. Each time I enjoyed very much. 

New and large aircraft often means better in-flight entertainment programs. In among the Chinese airlines, China Southern provides the most interesting and diverse selections. On my most recent flights, I watched a French movie La promesse de l’aube (Promise at Dawn) which I loved dearly. I also watched a Russian film Viking and two German comedies. All these movies came out in 2017. I feel I was able to catch up with the world cinema by flying China Southern.  In addition to these international movies, it has a large selection of Hollywood recent releases, classics, Asian and Chinese movies. I can’t list them all. I can only say I was impressed and entertained. 

One thing you might easily overlook but it is important to know is that you will always get a bridge to board your airplane if you fly China Southern. What it means is that you don’t have to walk a long distance to get to a basement-like area of the airport to hop on a shuttle bus in order to board your airplane. The shuttle bus is a pain at the Chinese airports. It can be very crowded and sometimes travels a long way. China Eastern is notorious for the shuttle bus ride. If you fly out of Hongqiao with China Eastern, 9 out 10 you will find yourself to be on a shuttle bus. In China airlines have to pay an extra fee to park at a gate with a bridge. Obviously China Southern is paying a higher price for its parking lots than its competitors. The extra they paid affords passengers with more convenience and comfort. This cannot be overlooked.   

China Southern is based in Guangzhou. This is one of the reasons for many people living up-north are less familiar with the airline. In May 2018 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport opened its 2nd Terminal which was dedicated to China Southern. This is the first time in China that a terminal is occupied by only one carrier. Not only is China Southern competing aggressively in the major cities, it also enjoys a niche in China’s wild west and runs flights in remote touristy regions. For instance, if you fly from Wulumuqi to Kashgar, most likely your flight is a Chinese Southern. Last year when my friend and I were traveling to Kanas Lake, an area bordering Russia and Mongolia, we decided to take a 50-munite flight from Wulumuqi rather than drive. Serendipitously we boarded a China Southern airplane.