Philanthropic Philosophy, Face, And That Dinner

Related entries: Business Issues, Corporate Social Responsibility, General, News

We hear plenty about China’s millionaires and billionaires from the Hurun Report, which recently provided the following news on China’s new richest man, as well as insight into the richest women (who do well in China, relative to their global peers):

• Wahaha(ha!) Zong Qinghou, richest man in China – Rupert Hoogewerf http://ht.ly/19dbKr RT @fonstuinstra:

• Chinese dominate list of richest women http://bit.ly/90rex7 RT @eobserver: RT @martaruco RT @ftchina

• Mainland’s richest people getting even richer. Average wealth jumped 26% to US$722 m… http://xpo.sh/19l RT @shanghaidaily

While the wealth is obviously 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 “rich” countries. Views differ, but the recent, infamous Gates-Buffet (“Barbie” / Ba-Bi) dinner – not likely to have been a buffet…) created a lot of debate around the issue, as well as speculation about who would accept the, supposedly prestigious, invitation (many did not). We track some of it here:

• A visit by two of the world’s richest men to China has ignited a fierce debate http://bit.ly/df5mrj. RT @westlawchina: From Reuters:

“Media speculation has centered on the traditional reticence of many rich Chinese to discuss their wealth in public, fearful of exposing fortunes larger than the government or rivals had calculated, inviting unwanted attention from tax collectors and hatred from millions of have-nots.

Private philanthropy became obsolete after the 1949 revolution when the Communist Party introduced a cradle-to-grave welfare system. But the country’s wealth gap widened after it embraced capitalist reforms in the late 1970s.

Natural disasters in recent years have stoked patriotic sentiment and rekindled an interest in charity…For many rich Chinese, giving is not totally new…The top 50 philanthropists donated nearly 3.9 billion yuan ($582.9 million) in total last year, according to the 2009 Hurun Philanthropy List, four times the figure from six years ago.”

• Grace Chiang China Philanthropy: The Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge Comes to China- Analysis from SVG on the Impact of Tonight’s Dinner http://is.gd/fzxQv. RT @cnphilanthropy From China Philanthropy, quoting Youth Daily:

“Wang Dongya of China Youth Daily summed up the standpoint of the event’s Chinese critics in this way, “The silence over the event is embarrassing. But it might partly be the fault of the world’s richest billionaire, Bill Gates; he does not understand how things work in China. You cannot invite China’s wealthiest to a high profile function under no obligation to donate. The guests will not know what to do. Attending and making a donation will make them look like greedy cowards who’ve been taught a lesson. Refusing is even worse. Every guest will be enormously wealthy, so matter how much anyone donates, it will not feel like enough, and the amount they give will be compared and judged by their peers. The truth is, many of them would be willing to give, but sometimes, saving face is more important.”

• To donate or create? Jack Ma (Founder of Alibaba and Taobao) on #CSR and #Philanthropy in #China http://tinyurl.com/2eo9x4s. RT @ChinaCSR From Collective Responsibility:

“Founder of Alibaba and Taobao (two of China’s most trafficked ecommerce platforms), Jack Ma holds a god like status in China. His voice on the matters of CSR and philanthropy in China are listened to as he has been one of the most vocal about the responsibility that he (and others) have to society. And while he has a foundation of his own, one of his first comments on the subject of giving I thought best sumed up the arguement for NOT giving his money away…“Today what China needs is 200 million jobs [..] So, today China philanthropy and charity I understand, but people like us should use resources better. I think we can run the resources better than the government […] I will regret when I am 80 years old giving the money away. I should spend the money now to create jobs”

In China philanthropy has become an issue for debate for the wealthy, and corporate social responsibility is also gaining in importance in business more widely, as many business leaders want to make a contribution (and as pressures to improve conditions grow), but local context – as with most things – is important.

And finally…it is not only the rich who want to have an impact…

• Philanthropy to the people! RT @chinahearsay: Man challenges Gates, Buffett banquet… http://is.gd/fyXfJ shanzhai rich guy charity banquet. From China Daily:

“Philanthropy should be taken up by more common people and should not be an activity only for the rich, said [the alternative, “Shanzhai”, dinner organiser] Lao Wu.”

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