During the winter holidays this year, as an English major, I was fortunate enough to come into contact with the insurance industry and in just a few days I went from having a superficial and one-sided awareness of insurance to having a preliminary general understanding. The use of the word ‘insurance’ can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries and evolved from the word ‘ensurance’, meaning security against loss or death in exchange for payment. Combined with the origins of the term, insurance, from my perspective, is a guarantee of social production and economic development, a product of human beings' focus on their own values and their pursuit of actual material and wealth. At that time, capitalism was beginning to develop and people were not restricted to religious and theological rules and regulations. The results of the Age of Exploration led people to look to seafaring for wealth, but the relatively poor technology and unpredictable climate did not guarantee the safety of voyages, and the concept of insurance was developed in order to avoid huge loss; After the Great Fire of London in the mid-seventeenth century, which caused serious damage to the property of many inhabitants, the concept of insurance began to take hold; The development of the industrial revolution and then the expansion of capitalism abroad, mass production, import and export trade and warfare made insurance become increasingly important and the insurance industry became increasingly more mature.
On Thursday morning, I went to China Health Connect to see some of the most representative policies in our country's collection and to get a glimpse of the history of the insurance industry in China. Since the opening of the port, foreign merchants came to China and insurance was introduced. Combining with the staff's explanations and the history we have learnt, we can see that insurance policies in China started out as protection for foreigners who came to China to do business and for the wealthy; ordinary people could not yet afford the relatively expensive insurance premiums, so insurance policies from the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China were generally written in English. Most of them were beautifully designed, covering sections such as the main policy content and endorsement. Each policy was accompanied by a concise textual description at the bottom, for example, one of the earliest policies I have seen is a transport insurance policy from the Yang-tsze Insurance Association Limited in 1898, which dealt mainly with water and fire, accident and transport insurance. The two insurance policies that impressed me during the visit were a fire insurance policy of Taiping Insurance Co. in 1938 and a simple life insurance policy in 1943. Taiping Insurance Company was founded in 1929 by the Golden City Bank. It was the predecessor of the present-day China Taiping Insurance Group Co. The founder, Mr. Zhou Zuomin, was a very influential national financier and an important figure in the development of the insurance industry in China. The 1943 simple life insurance policy was as simple and small as the name suggests, and although it was not as detailed as the previous foreign policies, its function seems to me to reflect the development of the insurance industry and the promotion of its popularity. The simple life insurance policy was inexpensive, making it affordable for more people, and the payment mechanism was reasonable and humanistic, as it was not a one-off payment, but a monthly or time-specific payment, and there were also features such as no medical examinations and home visits. I was able to appreciate the importance of insurance and its necessity during my conversations with the staff. For example, the staff mentioned that one of their clients invests up to $20,000 a year in health insurance, which may seem unnecessary to us, but in the long run, due to the client's age and the pandemic, he will be able to use the money invested to receive the best treatment and he could even travel abroad to be treated in developed countries freely if he falls ill. Therefore, the decision would be beneficial to him. Another example is the earthquake in Turkey just a few days ago, where a large number of houses collapsed causing serious damage, and then insurance can be very useful for a part of the damage to persons and property.
I have benefited a lot from the week-long ‘insurance trip’. From the origins to the development and spread of insurance culture, from the perspective of a liberal arts student, insurance is not only a reliable guarantee and pillar for the development of the financial industry and social production, but also, to some extent, a booster for the mutual exchange and absorption of different cultures, and that is why China's insurance industry has been able to flourish in just two centuries.