Philanthropy

Big bucks charitable giving took hold in 2010


By added on 05/01/2011

China’s super rich are very gradually getting the hang of charity and philanthropy, though some still resist and say charity begins at home - wealth should stay in their family, the Shanghai Daily reports.
Yu Pengnian, an 88-year-old real-estate tycoon, was recently listed among the world's 25 leading philanthropists this year by Barron's. America's premier financial magazine also listed Huang Rulun. Chinese philanthropists occupied two spots among the "25 Best Givers." Unlike the typical rich lists, this focused on good deeds, not money amassed.
The two are among the fast-growing group of China's new rich who give to charity.
Amazing the world with its economic boom, China embraced modern philanthropy in 2010.
"It is my great honor to commit to the world with an all-out donation promise, which shows the benevolence and social responsibility of Chinese entrepreneurs," said Chen Guangbiao, China's most famous philanthropist and CEO of a resources recycling company in eastern Jiangsu Province.
In September billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hosted a dinner in Beijing for a select group of Chinese billionaires to promote giving, which was dubbed "Barbie," in a shortening of the names.
In June, these two, among the world's richest men, succeeded in convincing 40 wealthy individuals and their families in the United States to hand over more than half of their fortunes to a charitable cause as part of "The Giving Pledge" project.
Soon after their giving promotion in the United States, they moved the campaign to China for the charity banquet. Some media took the event as an opportunity to test the philanthropic attitudes of Chinese billionaires.
Responding quickly to the invitation, Chen Guangbiao posted a letter on the Internet announcing he would "donate all my wealth to charity when I leave this world."
However, not all Chinese billionaires were enthusiastic about giving and many did not want to be required to make a pledge at the dinner.
Zong Qinghou, who topped Forbes magazine list as the richest man on the Chinese mainland, said he did not appreciate "donation pledges of rich men's personal wealth."
"Donation is not charity. A true philanthropist should be able to continuously create social wealth," said the president of the Zhejiang Wahaha Group.
Regardless, the "Barbie" dinner ignited fierce debates and concern among Chinese about charity, especially for the new rich. Benevolent behavior has become a new standard by which to evaluate public figures, entrepreneurs, sports stars and entertainers.
"Wealth is just a symbol and some numbers," said Huang Rulun, known as "China's Carnegie" for donating an estimated USUS$315 million to charity in recent years.
Coming from humble roots and struggling to succeed through their own efforts are common characteristics of most new rich in China.
Many of those who donate focus on education, health and disaster relief.
There is a deep-rooted tradition among Chinese of leaving all their wealth to their descendents. Many also don't like to reveal their wealth to government tax collectors and rivals.
To Yu, the idea of "come to daddy" was a major obstacle preventing rich Chinese from sharing their wealth with society through charity.
"If my son is capable, why should I leave money to him? But if he to weak in management, money cannot cheer him up," said Yu, who decided to donate his entire estate to charity.
Moreover, natural disasters in recent years have stoked patriotic sentiment and inspired more charitable giving than ever before. Wealthy individuals have also opened their purses after catastrophes, such as the 2008 Wenchuan (Sichuan) earthquake and the Yushu earthquake and Zhouqu mud slide this year.
Only two hours after the Sichuan quake on May 12, Chen led a team of 120 drivers and 60 heavy duty vehicles, including bulldozers and excavators, traveling many miles to the disaster area.