One day recently, while this writer was sitting in a Beijing hotel lobby, waiting for a business lunch, a nicely dressed, glasses-wearing young Chinese man pleasantly tried to start a conversation. After an exchange of business cards, he turned out to be – you guessed it – an insurance man. Scenes such as this, long common in other parts of the world, have now come to China – in a big way.
A rising standard of living invariably brings with it an insurance industry, as people try to protect what they have. With more than 3 million workers in the sector, China now has an exciting, fast-growing insurance industry. It is a remarkable change from the recent past. Only 20 years ago, perhaps 95% of Chinese did not even know what insurance was. Today, hundreds of millions of citizens hold policies of every sort, from health to life to property. The commercial insurance business has come a long way, from non-existent during the Mao era to an exploding market today; and the Chinese public has made equally rapid strides in accepting insurance products as a routine part of life. In today’s urban China, talking to an insurance agent is nearly as common as talking to your neighbor. Industry observers expect that, in time, holding insurance policies will become as popular as having a mobile phone.