China’s Wealthy Ponder Whether to Help Others

The Washington Post reports that a few of China’s billionaires got cold feet and backed out of a dinner with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, during which the two planned to encourage philanthropic giving among the rich:

As in America’s era of robber barons, new titans of industry are emerging every year in China. But in the United States, the industrial age also ushered in a generation of philanthropists – names such as Carnegie and Rockefeller that still resound today – and it is unclear whether the same is happening, or will happen, in China.

China now has one of the world’s largest collection of billionaires, second this year only to the United States, according to Forbes.

But giving away that wealth has proved more difficult at times than earning it.

While the Chinese government has been eager to compete with the United States and the rest of the world in other fields, philanthropy is one sector in which it remains hesitant. China’s leaders have not fully embraced the idea of handing over to individuals or groups the power to help the nation’s people – a role traditionally reserved for the Communist Party.

“One thing holding back philanthropy may be the reluctance among the rich. But the other is the worry of the government,” said Li Huafang, a researcher for the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law. “They don’t want other entities competing with them for the people’s hearts. But if they continue holding back philanthropy, it may not win the people’s hearts either.”

See also “Can Buffett and Gates Hope to Convert China’s Wealthy to Philanthropy?” from echinacities.com.

According to Reuters, one millionaire claims he has already convinced 100 others to donate all their wealth to charity upon their deaths:

Chen Guangbiao, who is worth an estimated $440 million according to last year’s Hurun rich list, and who is already one of the country’s top donors to good causes, has said he will leave his entire fortune to charity after he dies.

Chen was also one of the country’s first businessmen to announce he would attend a dinner in China this month hosted by billionaire philanthropists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who are visiting to talk about their Giving Pledge campaign.

Many rich Chinese have so far shied away from attending, according to Chinese media.

But Chen said he had convinced more than 100 businessman who had “responded to his appeal to donate all of their personal wealth to society,” state news agency Xinhua reported.

September 16, 2010 9:50 PM
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