When preparing for your China assignment you’ll undoubtedly think about insurance – particularly home contents insurance, if you’re relocating with your household goods. While your belongings will be insured by your relocation company door to door, only recently has it been possible to find suitable home contents insurance for your entire stay in China.

For the majority of Western families, the prospect of living without home and contents insurance is anathema. Developed societies are invariably well insured and have been for a very long time – it’s part of the culture. However, in China the insurance industry, though flourishing prior to the Second World War, took a hiatus in 1949 just prior to Mao’s Communist party assuming power. For the 30 years that followed insurance of any kind was nonexistent. The simple reason for this is that few people in China owned personal property, so there was nothing to insure.
With the rise of Deng Xiaoping and China’s economic reforms in 1978, the insurance industry emerged from its three-decade absence in the form of the People’s Insurance Company of China – a state-run monopoly. The PICC was the sole supplier of insurance in China until 1992, when the government gradually began allowing foreign insurance companies entry into the market. Currently there are 47 foreign insurance companies operating in China.

For expats, however, the fact that almost every major global insurance company has operations in China does not mean that there are many home contents insurance products designed with the needs of foreigners relocating to China in mind. Insurance companies generally come to China with the fabled ‘one billion customers’ in mind and have tended to overlook the expatriate market, which is tiny by comparison.

Not surprisingly, home contents insurance packages aimed at expats have previously been difficult (if not impossible) to find in China. In response to this, RSA (formerly Royal & Sun Alliance) recently launched a tailored insurance package catering to the unique needs of expats relocating to China. It also recently updated its coverage to cover wine, fine art and jewelry collections. Currently, RSA’s Private Client Insurance Program is the only insurance product in China specially designed for expats and thus satisfies a long-standing need in the expatriate community.

Previously, expats have not had the peace of mind offered by an insurance policy that covers them during their absences, some of which can be up to two months long during their summer pilgrimages to their home countries. It seems reasonable to infer that this has affected decisions about bringing valuables to China, and that people who have discovered on arrival that suitable home contents insurance is not readily available from a trusted provider have been burdened with the stress associated with the risk of losing their belongings should an incident occur.

Given the stressful nature of the relocation process as a whole, we recommend you take out a home contents insurance policy for the duration of your stay in China. Rates are reasonable, and it simply makes sense to eliminate potential stressors where possible. After all, it’s the aggregate of those stressors that has the potential to lead to culture shock and ultimately assignment failure.

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