In China, Philanthropy as a New Measuring Stick

The New York Times reports on the agreement by Jack Ma (CEO of the Alibaba Group) and Muhammad Yunus (founder of Grameen Bank) to create Grameen China:

Alibaba Group is contributing the initial $5 million in seed money, but both men hope their combined star power will soon draw in other corporate sponsors, giving Grameen a hefty piggy bank from which to start making modest loans to farmers and other small-business people in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia, two of the poorest provinces in China.

…“In the last two years, China’s corporations have become much more aware of philanthropy and social responsibility and are putting a much higher priority on it,” said Zhihua Yan of Z. H. Studio, a media and marketing consultancy in Beijing. “They are striving to innovate ways they can give back to the community.”

Donations in the country soared last year to 107 billion renminbi, or $15.7 billion, three times their level the previous year, according to a recent report by Jia Xijin and Zhao Yusi at the NGO Research Center at Tsinghua University in Beijing. About $11 billion of that went to relief efforts after the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake… Such a public outpouring also led to new attention on corporate philanthropy. Soon after the disaster, the Internet in China was abuzz with lists of so-called Iron Roosters, or birds so stingy they would not share a feather. Among those branded with the moniker were international giants like Samsung, Nokia and Coca-Cola, but also local companies like China Vanke, a giant real estate development firm. Under withering criticism for giving too little, Wang Shi, the chairman, apologized and made a gift of 100 million renminbi.

See also this interview with Mr. Yanus and his announcement of the opening of Grameen China. Read more about microfinance in China, via CDT.

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