This, inevitably, is creating a new set of pressures for companies in Hong Kong and the mainland. They are finding themselves at the sharp end, often having to deal with unrealistic expectations at home and overseas, as employees and international partners somehow assume that the downturn has had only minimal impact.
"These are confusing times for business leaders," says Christine Raynaud, chief executive of recruitment specialist The MRI China Group. "China demand is still seen as the panacea for Asian and Western multinationals, but within the mainland, the view is much more cautious."
To illustrate, Raynaud refers to findings from the firm's annual talent environment index. For this, more than 5,500 mid- to senior-level managers answered questions in an online survey conducted late last year. Respondents spanned a wide range of industries and locations in Greater China, Singapore, Europe and North America.
The results show a marked "disconnection" between executives in China and those elsewhere. For example, replies from Asia and other parts of the world are generally optimistic about prospects for the mainland economy - with respective figures of 50 per cent and 60 per cent positive. However, the feedback from major cities in China tells a contrasting story. There, only 42 per cent reported an overall positive outlook, with the more senior managers found to be even less optimistic (at 38.5 per cent) that those in mid-ranking positions (43 per cent).
"The difference is quite striking," Raynaud says. "We see a lot of [external] hope and expectations put on what the China market will be able to deliver in the coming year. But within the mainland, things are relatively more cautious. There will certainly be some conversations about business targets, as viewed from outside, and what is genuinely feasible."
The survey input from mainland-based senior executives is taken to show that stability, rather than change and expansion, is becoming a priority. This message, though, may not yet have filtered down to every leve