The CEO of a US multinational which was a strong advocate for China's entry to the World Trade Organization was yesterday bestowed the nation's highest honor given to a foreign business leader.
H. Edward Hanway, the chairman and chief executive officer of insurance giant CIGNA, was presented the Marco Polo Award for his great contributions to improving Sino-US relations.
"The award is for envoys who make contributions to exchanges between China and other countries, like Marco Polo did for the relations between China and the West 750 years ago," Zhang Jianguo, vice-director of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, said.
In his acceptance speech, Hanway said: "With this award, you honor me and my company. You also encourage all of us in the business arena to further promote and enhance bilateral relations between our two nations."
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing sent his congratulations, saying he appreciated Hanway's contributions to Sino-US exchanges.
CIGNA has a long history in China. One of its predecessor companies was the insurer for cargo ships sailing between Philadelphia and what was then Canton during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
"CIGNA returned to China in 1994. We have worked diligently to develop and cultivate the insurance market here," Hanway said.
Today, its joint venture operation, CIGNA & CMC Life Insurance Co Ltd, provides protection-oriented life, accident and supplemental health insurance services.
The Marco Polo Award was set up in 1987 by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the China International Talent Exchange Foundation and the Sino-US Talent Exchange Foundation.
Named after the Venetian traveler who first promoted friendship and trade between China and the West, the award is given to foreign business leaders for their contributions to Sino-US exchanges and who are specialists in their fields, and to those who advance economic and cultural communication between China and the United States.
More than 30 renowned personalities have received the award, including former US president George Bush; George Fisher, chairman and CEO of Kodak; and Alex Trotman, chairman and CEO of Ford.
(China Daily January 11, 2006)