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Marketing DeathCulture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China$
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Cheris Shun-ching Chan

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195394078

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394078.001.0001

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Is China an Inviting Place for Life Insurance?

Is China an Inviting Place for Life Insurance?

Societal Conditions, the Market, and Remaining Puzzles

(p.19) 1 Is China an Inviting Place for Life Insurance?
Marketing Death

Cheris Shun-ching Chan

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a context for the ethnographic stories that unfold in subsequent chapters. It begins with a brief historical background of commercial life insurance in China, dating back to the early nineteenth century through the end of the Maoist regime. Then, it details the economic, institutional, and cultural conditions in urban China in the late 1980s to the 1990s, and assesses each of these conditions’ possible impacts on the development of commercial life insurance, both favourable and unfavourable. In particular, the chapter details how major cultural barriers to life insurance, including the Chinese cultural taboo on death, are rooted in Chinese philosophical and folk religious traditions. Finally, it relates these institutional and cultural conditions to the theoretical questions of the book. It presents the characteristics of the emergent Chinese market, namely its uneven growth pattern, the dominance of domestic insurers, and its disproportionate focus on money management, and argues that neither the cultural value nor the cultural tool-kit model alone is sufficient to explain these characteristics.

Keywords:   child-centered culture, Chinese insurance firm, Chinese risk management, Chinese risk perception, concept of life and death, cultural taboo, good death, good life, insurance history in China, premature death

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