Thinking Big: Grow with New Normal -- PAA 2015 GA Forum

On May 21, 2015, Ms. Jane Zhang participated in a discussion panel at the 2015 Government Affairs Forum held by PublicAffairsAsia (PAA) on the theme of “Thinking Big: Where the New Opportunities for Business Lie.”

In explaining why she was turning her attention to new opportunities while most PAA speakers were still focusing on current crises, Ms. Zhang, a renowned crisis management expert, first reviewed what prompted her to begin speaking to multinationals about crises three years ago. As China’s leadership assumed power in late 2012, she explained, “we foresaw significant changes occurring at multiple levels within the policy and business environments that would impact multinationals.” However, most multinationals at the time continued to rely on mindsets and experience from the previous ten to twenty years, such as leveraging super-national treatment, and were reluctant to proactively adjust to a new environment and raised stakeholder expectations. A lack of preparation and shift in strategic thinking by multinationals would inevitably result in operational risks and crises. Foreseeing this trend, Ms. Zhang began to advise multinationals on various occasions about the urgency of understanding evolving stakeholder expectations, adjusting business models, and conducting risk assessment and proactive crisis preparedness.   

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“Now that risk and crises are on the agenda of most executives,” Ms. Zhang said, “as strategists at the vanguard of tactical thinking, policy professionals need to look beyond the current situation and think about what the next big thing is.” China has entered a “new normal” as its government has unveiled its ambitions and plans for the country over the next decade. We will continue to see new policies and guidelines being introduced at a rapid pace. This is where we can—and should—be looking so as to uncover new opportunities.

In concluding the discussion, Ms. Zhang emphasized that foreign companies must maintain their competitive edge in meeting customers’ needs with innovative solutions if they wish to stay ahead of Chinese competitors, who are catching up. Foreign companies must figure out how to differentiate themselves and continue to play a leading role in certain areas as they otherwise run the risk of having no role once the field is leveled in terms of competition with domestic enterprises.