Kung Fu (& Corporate) Philanthropy

Related entries: Corporate News, Corporate Social Responsibility, General

China’s corporate sector has never been big on charity, but this seems to be slowly changing (along with the development of the “harmonious society”, and a fear of unrest caused by the wealth gap). A couple of recent articles are interesting to note. The Washington Post reports on martial arts star, Jet Li, as “China’s Pusher of Philanthropy”:

    “BEIJING Surrounded by mist-covered hills, smiling children in pink costumes and a band playing drums and horns, Jet Li and Donatella Versace looked as if they could be on a movie set.

    The Chinese action star and Italian fashion icon were actually in a remote mountain village in December to dedicate a psychological care and trauma center for children who survived the devastating May earthquake in China’s Sichuan province…Celebrities jetting off to Africa to help malnourished children or to the Amazon to save rain forests is no longer headline news. But Li is the first to attempt something on this scale in China — a place where the laws on philanthropy are still being written and where the ruling Communist Party treats charities with the same suspicion it has for any other organization it doesn’t directly control.

    …[Li] has spent two years setting up a charitable foundation and recruiting the world’s rich and famous to donate their time and money to help those in need in China.

    …Li…is turning his attention to residents of China, which has one of the lowest rates of charitable giving of the world’s major economies, despite its newfound wealth. In the United States, giving represents about 2.1 percent of gross domestic product; in China, it’s closer to 0.35 percent.

    “The role we played is more like a pusher of philanthropic culture,” Li said in an interview. “Right now, people still have a fuzzy recognition about philanthropy and volunteerism. . . . My dream is to change the concept of philanthropy in China from simply helping others into responsibility.”

    The core idea of Li’s One Foundation is that in a country the size of China, if everyone gave a little, the impact would be enormous. Li is urging everyone to donate one yuan — about 15 cents — a month. “We set the lowest entrance barrier,” Li said. “Nobody can say no.

    …Li spent two years traveling to study the world’s most effective charities and trying to find a model that would work in China. He teamed with the Red Cross Society of China, an aid agency with close ties to the Chinese government, to create an “uber-charity” that would aggregate donations and pick the most worthy projects in the areas of education, health, environment and poverty.

    Li modeled his foundation on a publicly traded business accountable to its shareholders — in his case, donors. Transparency is essential. The charity issues quarterly reports and is audited by international accounting firm Deloitte & Touche.”

Li’s talents, it seem, stretch further than film. But he is not the only high-profile person to be promoting philanthropy in China, as China Herald notes in a recent post:

    “Cao Dewang, a glass tycoon from Fujian province, has become China’s biggest giver in charity, Hurun publisher Rupert Hoogewerf writes The Shanghai Daily. Cao Dewang wants to run the Fujian Charity Federation and would be number 102 on Hurun China Rich List last year with total assets of 6.5 billion Renminbi.

    If the foundation is approved by state authorities, it would be the first to be based entirely on stocks, the Fujian Charity Federation said.

    The fund would be used to provide school grants, disaster relief, subsidies for the poor and financial support to religious groups around the country, said the report, which did not say how the shares would be turned into cash….

    Cao dropped out of school when he was 14 and went on to earn 700,000 yuan in 1986, three years after he began operating a glass workshop in Fujian’s Fuqing City. The shop was later developed into the Fuyao Group, which went public in Shanghai in 1993.”

    In today’s environment, charitable giving is increasingly important everywhere. In China, while its roots may not be deep, it is gaining traction – not only because of the obvious need of the recipients, but also because the economy has reached a certain level of maturity – when “to be rich” is not enough to be “glorious”. Chinese and foreign-invested firms alike are now developing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. This looks like good corporate citizenship. And it may also be good for business.

One Response to “Kung Fu (& Corporate) Philanthropy”

  1. Archive » Philanthropic Philosophy, Face, And That Dinner| China Business Blog Says:

    […] there, it is tightly focused and, well, new. So how about philanthropy in China? It does exist (see an example in our post here), but it is clearly in a different environment from, and not as developed as in, the US or other […]

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