2021 Chinese Electrical Engineering Research Study

Electrical engineers influence electronics design all over the world. A market of growing global importance is China, a hub of electronics manufacturing.

EETech Media partnered with 21ic and Wilson Research Group to gather and analyze survey data from electronics professionals based in China. This data shines a light on the habits, responsibilities, and opinions of this important demographic in the engineering world. Learn about who makes purchasing decisions in Chinese engineering companies, how Chinese electronics professionals learn, how COVID has impacted the Chinese market, and more.

Kate Smith
All About Circuits

China Based EEs

Chinese engineers are statistically quite young—only 36 years old—and have an average of 9 years of engineering experience. This is a young workforce that commands ¥1.6K in BOM per project and ¥6.8K for prototyping components at generally smaller companies. Nearly half of these respondents reach out to suppliers for information during the design process. 

World Regions

Knowing when engineers design for different global markets can help us understand market needs, as well as how often engineering work is outsourced.

In the graph on the right, select which demographic you’re interested in (engineers based in North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, or China) to see which markets they design for most. You’ll notice immediately that each demographic is most likely to design for the market in which they’re based (e.g., North American engineers are most likely to design for the North American market).

Company Role

The majority of survey respondents reported that they self-identify as Engineers, comparable to the results for global, non-Chinese electrical engineer respondents.

There is a more significant difference when it comes to those that self-identify as Senior Engineers, with more Chinese respondents claiming that designation compared to the global average. Comparatively, A vastly higher number of global EE respondents self-identify as Executives.

Which role do you serve in your company?

End Products Worked On

The top type of end products, services, or applications Chinese engineers design for was general modules and subassemblies, followed by mobile devices (handheld), computers/computer peripherals, and white goods (described as large and small appliances). Global EEs, on the other hand, had more representation designing T&M equipment, followed by general modules and subassemblies and computers/computer peripherals.

Which end products, services, or applications do you primarily work on in your designs?

(Multiple responses)

Test & Measurement Equipment

Unsurprisingly, the top choice of T&M equipment utilized in professional designs was oscilloscopes for all respondents in both the Chinese survey and the global EE survey. A close second in both instances was the voltmeter/digital multimeter. Ranking of all tools beyond those top two was largely comparable between the demographics, though global EEs reported higher use of all tools overall.

What types of test/measurement equipment do you use the most often in your professional design projects?

(Multiple responses)

Purchasing Decisions

Assessing who makes purchasing decisions helps us understand who to design marketing materials for and who’s most directly shaping the future of the industry.
59% of Chinese respondents reported that they make decisions as a team. Compare this to 29% of global respondents. Meanwhile, 24% of Chinese respondents who report themselves as the primary decision makers as compared to 45% of global respondents.

This data suggests that decision-making is more collaborative in the Chinese professional world. This fact could affect the decision-making process, the resources needed for this process, the language used in marketing materials, and more.

Who makes purchasing decisions on the products you design?

Industries of Interest

Chinese respondents indicated that they work in several of the same industries common to global respondents, namely control/automation, consumer electronics, IoT, and automotive. There was notably less representation among Chinese respondents in the military/aerospace industry compared to global respondents.

Which industry do you primarily work in?

Areas of Expertise

The top three most popular areas of expertise that Chinese respondents would like to pursue are power design, embedded development, and PCB layout. The least common selections were data science, system architecture, and machine learning/neural networks at 10%.

While global engineers had similar choices for areas they found least interesting, their choices for most interesting were quite different, where analog design and digital design accompanied embedded development.

What area of expertise would you like to pursue?

(Multiple responses)

Most Pressing Challenges

When gauging which issues engineers face most in their day-to-day work, the number one response from Chinese respondents was staying on schedule and meeting time-to-market demands. This consideration speaks to the state of competition in the field as it shows that timeliness of solutions is a major pain point, putting pressure on how quickly a component, subsystem, or device can be put together.

The major insight here is how these Chinese engineers compare to their global counterparts. Both demographics chose “staying on schedule” as their number one challenge, but significantly more global engineers selected this option compared to Chinese engineers. Global engineers also worried more about staying on budget. This could be due to more confined projects in the Chinese market or perhaps more affordable components, as we’ve seen that global engineers are often given larger budgets overall.

What are the most pressing challenges you face in your current design work?

(Multiple responses)

Effects of COVID-19 on Engineers

As you can see, individual Chinese engineers and individual global engineers reported the cancellation, delay, and reduction of projects at comparable rates. We also see that there were comparable rates of reduced travel for work, delayed and cancelled training, and pay cuts.

The largest delta between these groups was in how many engineers reported working mostly or entirely from home during COVID, where Chinese engineers reported much lower numbers for partial or full work from home. These disparate results could be due to different safety protocols in the workplace or to cultural differences.

How have you individually been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

(Multiple responses)

Effects of COVID-19 on Companies

Looking at the effects of COVID on companies, we see that Chinese engineers report a much bigger impact on their companies than do global engineers. This difference may be due to geographical location, supply chains, and other similar factors.

The number of canceled, delayed, or reduced number of projects was also higher for Chinese respondents compared to the global average. On the other hand, Chinese respondents reported significantly less reduction in live events and fewer layoffs and furloughs compared to the global average.

Note that Chinese respondents were provided fewer response options, which may also account for differences in selections.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your company?

(Multiple responses)

Manufacturers & Applications

We asked Chinese respondents to identify which companies they most correlate with given applications. While there were data points across the board, Texas Instruments was most commonly associated with power, STMicroelectronics with IoT applications, and Infineon with automotive. Note that this information is tempered by the fact that the top companies (i.e., Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Analog Devices, NXP, and Infineon) were the most common selections overall, indicating that familiarity with major brands impacts how they’re perceived in the context of given applications.

When talking about the following applications, which manufacturer do you think of first?

(Multiple responses)

What Do You Look For?

One of the largest differences observed between the Chinese and global engineering audiences comes from this question regarding what qualities are the most important when selecting a component manufacturer.

Where global engineers placed short lead times, website usability, and reliable supply chain management as their top concerns, Chinese engineers had a very different perspective. For Chinese engineers, it is significantly more important to have adequate service and support, as well as previous positive experiences with that manufacturer.

This may be due to cultural differences or even different pressures on the Chinese vs. global markets.

What do you look for in a component manufacturer?

(Multiple responses)

Purchasing Parts

Chinese respondents reported a significant preference for utilizing online marketplaces as compared to global averages. Overall, the only method through which Chinese respondents select parts less than global averages was distributor websites. This points to a slightly more varied range of purchasing methods that Chinese engineers are willing to utilize as compared to the average engineer from elsewhere.

What are your preferred methods for purchasing parts?

(Multiple responses)

New Products

Chinese respondents reported that they are significantly more conservative in choosing when to branch out to try new products they’ve never used before. This indicates that marketers may have a harder time convincing Chinese engineers to try new products as compared to the typical global engineer.

How often do you use a new product on the market that you’ve never used before?

Contacting Suppliers

Engineers contact suppliers during the design process for several reasons: troubleshooting, advice, additional specifications, and more.

A notable percentage of global engineer respondents report that they never reach out to companies in this way and the largest percentage of these engineers said they’d reach out for less than a quarter of their designs.

Chinese engineers, on the other hand, are much more open to reaching out to manufacturers, with over half of respondents reporting that they do so for 50% or more of their designs.This information suggests that robust customer assistance is vital to companies that hope to support Chinese engineers to their satisfaction.

Approximately on how many of you designs are you likely to contact a supplier for assistance?

Relied on Info

Chinese engineer respondents indicated notably less reliance on spec sheets, application notes, reference designs, online design tools, company documentation, videos, and FAEs for gathering information for their designs compared to global averages. The preferred technical articles, whitepapers, webinars, product brochures, press releases, and eNewsletters. This indicates trust in content types that are commonly supplied by companies as marketing materials as compared to spec-heavy resources that provide information more than context.

Which types of info do you rely on most for your designs?

(Multiple responses)


WeChat is one of the most dominant social media platforms in China. Chinese engineer respondents reported that they acquire technical knowledge from WeChat and other SMS platforms extremely often, with over 40% of respondents saying they got 50% or more of their technical knowledge in this fashion.

Percentage of acquired technical knowledge that comes from WeChat, WeChat moments, and other SNS?

New & Emerging Platforms

We asked respondents to identify which emerging communication channels they used to acquire technical knowledge. The top response was Bilibili, a video-sharing platform comparable to YouTube. In second place was Zhihu, which is a question-and-answer platform which requires a login, comparable to Quora, Stack Exchange, and other such forums.

A smaller group identified Douyin as a resource, which is the Chinese name for TikTok, a short-form video-sharing platform. These responses indicate an interest in video content, as well as user-generated information from peers.

Will you acquire professional technical knowledge from the following emerging communication channels?

Technical Activities

We asked respondents to indicate which technical activities they preferred to participate in. By a wide margin, downloading technical documentation was the most popular choice, followed by attendance of online seminars and dev board evaluations. 

Given how many respondents indicated vested interest in participation in technical live broadcasts, the data suggests that content types that are not dependent on live attendance are even more popular. This indicates that content designed to be consumed at any time is more highly desired than content that requires attendance at a specific time.

What kind of technical activities do you prefer to participate in?

Learn About Live Broadcasts

When determining which technical live broadcasts to attend, respondents indicated that they most often learn about upcoming events via WeChat. Website promotion was also cited as a common method of learning about upcoming broadcasts, indicating consistent engagement with the websites in question. To a lesser degree, email campaigns were also cited as a method of learning about broadcasts.

In which of the following ways do you learn about technical live broadcasts?

Live Broadcast Participation

When asked how often Chinese respondents participate in technical broadcasts intended for professional audiences, 79% indicated that they participate in at least one broadcast every three months. Breaking that down, around 18% indicated that they participate in such broadcasts once per week. 

This data suggests that live broadcasts are a good investment for companies looking to reach Chinese engineering audiences.

How often do you participate in professional and technical live broadcasts?

Can’t Get Enough Data?

The data presented here is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in more data, particular insights, or would just like to use our data in your marketing materials, please reach out to us. We’re happy to share!

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