Although China's total insurance premiums in 2011 rose 10 percent to 1.43 trillion yuan ($226.64 billion) from a year earlier, many insurance companies have not kept up with "the profound changes in the external environment," according to the country’s regulatory body.

In a speech at the end of a key financial conference, Xiang Junbo, the chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) who has served in this role since last October, said assets in the industry totaled 5.9 trillion yuan. He did not offer a background comparison. A war veteran and previously a screenwriter turned banker, Xiang was the chairman of Agricultural Bank of China before taking the helm of the CIRC. He currently oversees an industry that the media has described as facing headwinds from weak investment returns, and includes the world's two biggest life insurers -- China Life and Ping An.

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