NU Online News Service, Sept. 17, 5:07 p.m. – The China Insurance Regulatory Commission has approved an application from CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, to enter the Chinese life insurance market.

The ruling makes CIGNA the first non-Chinese insurer to complete the application approval process since China entered the World Trade Organization in December 2001, CIGNA says.

Other foreign life insurers, including MetLife Inc., New York, and New York Life Insurance Company, New York, entered the Chinese market before the country joined the WTO.

CIGNA says it expects to begin its life insurance operations next year in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, the commercial district next to Hong Kong.

CIGNA notes that it first formed ties with China in the late 1700s, when a predecessor company insured American cargo bound for China.

CIGNA has long been a staunch advocate for normal trade relations with China, and the company opened representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou beginning in 1994, the company says.