(Yicai Global) Feb. 14 -- Chen Xiangli, president of General Electric Co.'s China research and development center for 16 years, recently resigned amid layoffs and employee transfers at the Shanghai branch of GE China R&D Center's Central Research Institute.
Chen, also a GE Global vice president, stepped down of his own accord, and was not laid off as some have speculated, Yang Linzhu, public relations director of GE China R&D Center, said in an interview yesterday.
"Chen is very important to GE," Yang said. "His resignation was a surprise to us. We've not yet chosen his successor yet. GE generally announces resignations and appointments at the same time, so Chen's departure hasn't been announced yet."
A manager of one foreign-funded company close to GE told Yicai Global that GE's business in China may already not have met GE's global strategy, and Chen may have been in conflict with staff. GE China R&D Center is one of the Boston-based company's nine basic R&D centers across the world, with nearly 3,000 personnel in China and more than 150 labs in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Xi'an and Wuxi, providing technical support for GE's China and global operations.
Yang denied speculation that about 70 percent of GE China R&D employees will leave, saying she also cannot give the exact figure.
Staff changes mostly occurred in the Shanghai branch of the Central Research Institute, which handles basic research in a number of fields. In addition to resignations, some staff will move to other roles, while some will return to the US, many of whom are scientists.
GE has a total of 50,000 R&D personnel worldwide, and the Central Research Institute has about 3,000 staff globally, accounting for 6 percent. Yang said the staff changes in the Shanghai branch are part of the global strategic change of GE Central Research Institute, not a special move in GE China.
The big staff change in the Central Research Institute may be related to two things. First, GE's global technology chief was changed at the end of 2015. The new CTO, Vic Abate, kicked off changes in the R&D department, with layoffs and staff cuts at the Central Research Institute as the core.
GE is also looking forward to a successful transition from a traditional manufacturing enterprise into a diversified digital industry group, which also contributed to the large-scale adjustment of the R&D department.