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Chinese sorcery

While banks spend millions on creating an "image concept" around the globe, their efforts run into the ground in China.

Take Chase, which spends much time reminding everybody that it is not Chase Manhattan, and certainly not Chemical.

However, in China the bank has pragmatically chosen to use Manufacturers Hanover's name. The reason? Chemical's first merger victim has a Chinese name that translates as Civilization Bank. The connotations of "civilization" are strong, one China expert told Euromoney, and this name was too good to ditch.

Other banks have a similar problem. Their Chinese names have to sound roughly similar to their real names, but must also have "Chinese connotations". So ING Barings has the character "ing" then "bah" then "ing" again. The initial and last character don't mean anything, but the "bah" conveys a sense of power. Bah were ancient warlords.

Merrill Lynch's Chinese name translates as "Deep Forest" while Citibank's is "Flowerflag Bank" because when it arrived in China 100 years ago the onlookers associated the stars and stripes above its branch with a lovely flower.

Morgan Stanley translates as "Magic Flute", which leads to its top property analyst, Peter Churchouse, regularly getting caricatured in the Chinese press wearing a turban and playing a flute like the Pied Piper.

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