Why China's right to clamp down on 'barbarian' insurers

A new breed of insurance firms has grown very big, very fast. Long a source of instability in the market, these firms can now be quite the opposite.

Last July, a little-known Chinese insurance company started buying up shares in China Vanke, one of the country’s largest property developers. Qianhai Life Insurance, a subsidiary of conglomerate Baoneng, was created just four years ago. But it did not take the company long to cause a stir.

Qianhai’s hostile bid for Vanke ultimately failed, but it generated a great deal of publicity in the process. Vanke’s chairman Wang Shi, apparently exasperated by the sheer audacity of a hostile takeover in China of all places, derided Baoneng as a “barbarian”.

Regulators seems to be thinking along the same lines. Over the last five weeks, they have issued...

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