The professional job market in China is undergoing a significant transformation in 2024, characterised by rapid changes and new challenges. Yet, it is ripe with opportunities for those ready to navigate its complexities. In this fast-evolving environment, adaptability and preparation are key for professionals aiming to thrive.

We compiled a list of the highest-paying jobs across the Chinese Mainland to assist in your career journey. This resource is designed not only for those eyeing executive positions but also for job seekers at various stages of their careers, offering insights into sectors known for their competitive compensation packages.

The executive recruitment market in 2024

Executives play a crucial role in navigating business growth, making the recruitment and retention of top executive talent a primary focus for companies.

Olly Riches, Managing Partner at Page Executive Asia Pacific, underscores China’s Mainland as a global powerhouse with vast potential in the executive recruitment sector. He highlights the continuous, keen interest in understanding the nuances and trends of China’s executive talent landscape, reflecting the country’s significant influence on international talent acquisition strategies.

The importance of cross-cultural communication in executive recruitment

Due to significant cultural differences in different countries and regions, cross-cultural communication and cooperation have become increasingly important in executive recruitment. While generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology undeniably transforms the hiring process, the human touch remains irreplaceable, especially in leadership and executive roles.

Trends and challenges in international expansion

He noted that in recent years, the trend of Chinese companies expanding internationally, particularly into Southeast Asia and Europe, has posed challenges for recruiting leadership teams abroad.

The considerable cultural differences across countries and regions underscore the growing significance of cross-cultural communication and cooperation in executive hiring. Despite the undeniable impact of generative AI technology in transforming recruitment practices, the human element remains indispensable, especially in roles requiring leadership and executive decision-making.

Jesaline Huang oversees the firm’s operations, specialising in recruitment for finance, accounting, and corporate CEO roles (contact via [email protected] for inquiries or more information). Jesaline predicts that the executive recruitment landscape in 2024 will remain dynamic.

Navigating business transformation: The Stock Replacement trend

A key trend she highlights is ‘stock replacement’ — the process by which companies refresh their leadership to navigate through periods of business transformation and market disruption. While there will also be growth in recruitment for new roles, particularly in companies expanding internationally, the demand in 2024 will predominantly be for executives who can drive value, open new opportunities, and deliver strong performance.

Sector-specific insights: High-paying jobs and market evolution

The list of highest-paying jobs spans a diverse array of sectors, such as technology, financial services, healthcare and life sciences, as well as consumer goods and manufacturing.

This ranking fluctuates annually, with certain roles debuting and others fading away. Such changes mirror the ongoing evolution of the market and industry dynamics, highlighting how economic shifts and technological advancements continually reshape which positions are most lucrative.

Consumer Companies' shift towards profitability

Samantha Li (contact via [email protected]), Partner at Page Executive Shanghai office, observes a pivotal shift in consumer companies, moving from prioritising growth to focusing on profitability.

This transition has increased emphasis on product research and development, alongside a deeper understanding of consumer insights and engagement. Samantha advises executives to seize opportunities in focused segments/ markets, emphasising the importance of excelling in key areas such as product innovation, team upskilling/development, and go to market strategy.

Manufacturing and ESG initiatives: A global focus

In the manufacturing sector, certain sectors stand out for offering high-paying, in-demand positions. Peggy Zhu, a Partner at Page Executive’s Shanghai office (contact via [email protected]), highlights that amidst the global push for carbon neutrality, companies within energy storage, photovoltaics, and new energy sectors are increasingly prioritising overseas expansion and ESG initiatives.

This shift has catalysed an increased demand for pivotal executive positions, particularly for roles such as Head of Overseas Sales and Global Chief Operating Officers. Concurrently, sectors like chemicals and automotive are experiencing significant organisational transformations, transitioning from regional frameworks to more streamlined vertical management models.

This strategic realignment has intensified the need for General Managers within China, mirroring the shifting dynamics and organisational structures in the manufacturing industry.

Top 10 best-paying jobs in the Chinese Mainland

1. Chief Executive Officer (3-8 million)

Within the corporate hierarchy, the CEO role commands top compensation for its pivotal influence on growth and strategic direction. Our data consistently highlights CEOs, especially in the IT, consumer, life sciences, and manufacturing sectors, as among the highest earners.

Notably, there is an inverse relationship between immediate cash remuneration and long-term incentives like stock options, with this trend spanning both privately held and publicly traded companies, including multinational corporations in China.

Taking the consumer industry as an example, Samantha points out the multifaceted role of Chinese CEOs. Amid slowing growth or significant transformations, these leaders are tasked with spotting opportunities, devising strategies, managing risks, optimising costs, and fostering team to improve performance and win market competitions

Moreover, attracting and retaining top talent is crucial, underscoring CEOs’ comprehensive responsibilities in navigating their companies towards sustained success and competitive dominance.

2. Chief Investment Officer (2.5-6 million)

As companies grow and face increased pressure from local competition, businesses must pinpoint novel growth avenues or pioneer secondary growth trajectories. Chief Investment Officers (CIOs) are essential in this strategic process.

Tasked with overseeing corporate capital investments and risk management, CIOs’ purview extends to making critical investment decisions, leading investment teams, refining investment portfolios, and mitigating risks.

Jesaline highlighted the critical need for CIOs to stay attuned to market dynamics and risk patterns, offering investment counsel to inform corporate decision-making. Beyond advising, their role is instrumental in architecting and executing company strategies, thereby driving organisational growth and adaptation.

3. Investment Managing Director (2.5-5 million)

Investment managers are responsible for researching and analysing relevant industries in the company’s industrial investment field, formulating investment objectives, and developing strategic plans according to the company’s overall strategic planning.

Their responsibilities expand from developing customer resources and seeking cooperation opportunities to managing investment, reporting investment status and investment plans, and executing relevant resolutions, including investment project implementation, post-investment management and exit.

Rachel Lai, Partner at Page Executive’s Beijing office (contact via [email protected]), observes a trend towards integrating finance and industry background within the financial sector. Sectors receiving governmental support, such as advanced technology, semiconductors, renewable energy, and biomedicine, are attracting significant investment interest.

These fields, with high investment thresholds, seek investment professionals with advanced degrees in science and engineering, and industry-specific experience. This blend of deep sectoral knowledge and financial acumen is crucial for enhancing investment decisions, illustrating the increasing need for talent with a robust industry background to navigate the complexities of the investment landscape effectively.

4. Chief Technology Officer (2-6 million)

Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) are executives in charge of an organisation’s technology management, which expands from formulating technology strategy to cybersecurity and product development. They need to understand various technology trends and be able to align innovation with business objectives.

Ideal candidates demonstrate a profound competency in infrastructure, software development, cloud technologies, cybersecurity protocols, and various programming languages, ensuring the effective deployment of tech solutions.

Furthermore, adeptness in data analytics and management is essential, enabling the crafting of data-driven business strategies. In an era where technological progress is a key business driver, the CTO’s function is evolving beyond mere infrastructure oversight to spearhead technological innovation and leading the charge in digital product development.

5. Chief Business Officer at Pharmaceutical Company (1.5-4 million)

Navigating the path to profitability in the current market for pharmaceutical and biotech firms requires a nuanced approach to commercialization and pipeline planning. Central to this strategy are the Chief Business Officers (CBOs) – therole demands strategic acumen, resilience, and a deep understanding of the market. On top of that, CBOs are expected to keep one eye on the most recent scientific discoveries, while reporting back to the company board how those can correlate with the company .

Maria Karp, Partner specialising in healthcare and life sciences executive recruitment at Page Executive Shanghai (contact via [email protected]), shares that CBOs in the pharmaceutical sector typically possess a Ph.D. in science or medicine, coupled with fluent bilingual capabilities, extensive global exposure, and an international perspective.

Their proficiency in negotiation and presentation and the ability to foster expansive networks within major pharma organisations are critical. Furthermore, these leaders are expected to have a comprehensive grasp of the entire Business Development (BD) process, from scouting to alliance management, enabling them to make informed decisions and successfully negotiate deals that drive the company’s profitability and ensure long term development

6. General Manager at Pharmaceutical and MedTech Company (1.5-3 million)

In the pharmaceuticals and medical technology sector, theGeneral Manager is also one of the highest-paying executive positions.

Essential qualifications for this key role include a strong background in sales and marketing within multinational corporations and comprehensive knowledge of China’s pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors and the dynamics of regulatory compliance and policies.

These leaders must exhibit an unwavering commitment to compliance, corporate governance, and operational efficiency, all while maintaining a forward-looking approach to pipeline development.

Moreover, General Managers in this domain are expected to embody agile leadership to drive business transformation and formulate long-term strategies. A critical aspect of their responsibility involves motivating and developing the next generation of middle management.

7. Chief Operation Officer (1.6-3.5 million)

With the increasingly fierce market competition, many companies have begun recognising operations as a critical function. As a top management team member, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) is a key player responsible for production, supply chain, sales, and customer service.

This position demands a leader with a formidable blend of leadership and execution prowess, adept communication, strategic foresight, and problem-solving capabilities. Furthermore, as organisations venture into global markets, the demand for COOs focusing on international business has surged, marking them as highly sought-after roles in the contemporary corporate landscape.

8. Chief Financial Officer (1.5-5 million)

The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) continues to rank among the highest-paid positions across corporate roles. The CFO is a company’s “God of Wealth” and is responsible for raising funds, managing funds, and other capital operation business. In recent years, the scope of the CFO’s role has significantly broadened, evolving beyond traditional finance to encompass strategic business analysis and decision-making.

As indispensable advisors and strategic analysts, CFOs are integral to the senior management team, embodying the credibility and leadership qualities essential for potential succession to the CEO position. The most lucrative CFO positions are typically found within publicly listed entities or firms poised to go public.

These executives boast a deep proficiency in capital market dynamics, a thorough understanding of regulatory requirements for public listings, and the ability to engage effectively with investors and stakeholders.

9. Global Sales Director (2-3.5 million)

Sales professionals have long been synonymous with substantial compensation packages. With the increasing globalisation of Chinese enterprises, the emphasis on international product sales has intensified, propelling the role of Global Sales Directors to the forefront of corporate strategy.

Tasked with strategising comprehensive marketing and sales blueprints that span both domestic and international markets, these directors set sales objectives, devise execution strategies, and oversee the realisation of export initiatives. Furthermore, their duties extend to cultivating international client bases and fostering enduring relationships, underscoring their critical role in driving global business expansion.

10. Overseas Marketing Head (1.5-3 million)

True international expansion hinges on delivering high-quality, cost-effective products and establishing brands that epitomise the “Made in China” ethos on the global stage. This evolution from merely “exporting products” to “exporting brands” requires a meticulously localised marketing approach.

Overseas marketing managers wield deep insights into the supply chain, consumer preferences, and multi-channel marketing tactics to anchor their brands effectively in foreign markets.

In recognition of their crucial role in amplifying brand presence, narrating the journey of Chinese enterprises, expanding market share, and fostering long-term growth in product sales and brand equity, companies offer substantial remuneration to these professionals.

How to break through as an executive candidate

For executive candidates aiming to harness opportunities, drive value, and forge a resilient career path in the coming year, our specialists at Page Executives offer strategic guidance to navigate your career towards uncharted territories.

  1. Embrace innovation and breakthroughs while honing fundamental competencies. Challenge traditional methodologies, stay abreast of industry trends, pinpoint and address critical business challenges, contribute performance enhancements, create value, and create new opportunities for your organisation.
  2. Move away from a traditional employee mindset, embracing a posture of ownership and risk management. In a market filled with uncertainties, it is difficult for executives without a clear path and entrepreneurial spirit to lead their teams to break through. The market will gradually abandon executives who cling to the old mentality of professional managers.
  3. Cultivate self-awareness, distinguishing your inherent capabilities from those augmented by your current role and understanding the skills you possess independently of your organisational position.
  4. Embrace the growth (and most of the time, discomfort) that comes from navigating the unknown. Develop the acumen to manage complex situations and relationships, eschew perfectionism, avoid oversimplification and premature judgments, forge diverse professional networks, and sustain a global outlook.

These principles equip executives with the mindset and strategies to excel in dynamic markets, ensuring leadership resilience and sustained career advancement.

Note: Salaries on the list only refer to annual cash salary (unit: RMB), excluding non-cash compensation such as stocks, options, and equity. Salaries can differ from one company to another, depending on your skills, knowledge and experience.

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