China has awarded the Marco Polo Award to CIGNA Corp. Chairman H. Edward Hanway.

The award is the highest honor that China can bestow on a foreign business leader, according to CIGNA, Philadelphia.

CIGNA promoted efforts to get China into the World Trade Organization, and it became the first U.S. insurance company to establish a joint venture life insurance company in China after China entered the WTO in 2001.

CIGNA now has significant operations in Beijing and throughout the Guangdong province, and it established new operations in Shanghai in late 2005.

CIGNA will open a new branch office in Shanghai Thursday, and it expects to launch operations in 2 more provinces in 2006, the company says.