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China poised for international growth: Greenberg


NEW YORK--China has very rapidly grown into a hub of world commerce and is poised to become an even mightier business power, according to C.V. Starr & Co. Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Maurice R. Greenberg.

That was the message in Mr. Greenberg's comments Wednesday while delivering the keynote speech at the annual joint luncheon of the Assn. of Professional Insurance Women and the New York chapter of the CPCU Society.

The longtime industry executive, who formerly served as chairman and CEO of New York-based American International Group Inc., made his first visit to China in 1975 and noted that the country, in only a matter of decades, has quickly grasped ways to become a prominent player in insurance and other industries.

Mr. Greenberg referenced China Life Insurance Co.--which earlier this week went public and is now listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange as the third-largest global insurer after AIG and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.--as one sign of the country's continuing success in the insurance marketplace.

When it comes to business, "China today doesn't need much advice," said Mr. Greenberg, crediting resources such as strong technology and a rich talent base.

Among other things, Mr. Greenberg noted that he is personally working on a project to establish a "modern," "for-profit" hospital in China.

China is booming not only internally, though, and the world will soon witness local companies expanding beyond China's borders to become massive multinational corporations.

"You'll see Chinese companies buying U.S. companies, or European companies," Mr. Greenberg predicted. And "this is not a 10-year horizon...that's going to be playing out in the near term."

However, China's rapid growth has also incited problems for the country, some of the biggest among them being pollution and corruption, Mr. Greenberg noted.

"The environmental issues in China are just staggering," and "corruption in the country, like any other developing country, is high."

For those exploring the possibilities of doing business there, the good news is that Chinese leadership is already working on a comprehensive five-year plan to combat such issues, according to Mr. Greenberg.

Still, he emphasized, the key to successful ventures in China is taking ample time to understand the country's unique culture.

"Americans have the habit" of trying to "export" what they know, Mr. Greenberg said, but to be successful, "you simply have to adapt yourself" instead to the culture of the country in which you are doing business, he advised.