Visa International president and chief executive officer Edmund P. Jensen spent three days in China last week to bolster the association's commitment to that emerging card market.

The San Francisco-based association entered China in 1988. By midyear 1996, sales volume from 11 million Visa cards reached $5.1 billion, a small but growing portion of the $104.1 billion spent on Visa cards in the Asia- Pacific region.

Mr. Jensen was on hand Jan. 14 to open the Visa Research and Training Center at Renmin University to teach banking executives about marketing credit cards. The association also donated $120,000 to establish a Visa Foundation for professors and students there.

A day earlier, Mr. Jensen had been presented the Marco Polo Award at a ceremony in Beijing. The award recognized Visa's support of Volunteers of America's China Project. Seven awards have been given to U.S. companies since the China Project was begun in 1989.

Visa sponsored visits by 30 volunteer U.S. experts to China this year through the nonprofit group. The experts shared their knowledge of the financial services industry.

On his first day in China, Mr. Jensen helped launch the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's Beijing University Visa affinity card. The association said nearly 10% of new Visa cards issued in China come from cobranding or affinity deals.

Overall, Visa has been working with 10 member banks in China to install an electronic financial payment system as part of China's Golden Card Project.

Mr. Jensen met with China's vice premier, Zhu Rongji, and the governor of the People's Bank of China, Dai Xianglong, to discuss development of a national processing center that would be the nerve center of the Golden Card Project.

This year, 12 pilot sites for regional interchange network centers are to be established, enabling automated teller machine and point of sale transactions in various parts of China.

Mr. Jensen also discussed Visa's support for China's establishing specifications and standards for chip card technology to be used in the payment system.

By adopting chip card technology, Visa said, China could create a cashless-payment society instead of having to rely on the intermediate technologies used in many western countries.

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