Guo Yukuan (郭宇宽): What is the Lifetime Achievement Award for China Philanthropy?

China Media Project translates an editorial by Guo Yukuan which appeared, and then disappeared from, the Southern Metropolis Daily. In the editorial, Guo questions whether Niu Gensheng, founder of Mengniu dairy corporation, which was implicated in the melamine-tainted milk scandal, deserves to receive the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award for China Philanthropy:

This is truly stunning. It is well known that Chairman Niu’s record in facing responsibility toward the parents of children harmed in the melamine-tainted milk scandal [of 2008] falls far short of what we should expect from a socially responsible entrepreneur. Of course, Niu Gensheng has a rather high profile for his charitable actions. In 2005 he took his equity interest in Mengniu, which was said to have totaled some five billion yuan, and used it to set up the “Old Niu Fund” (老牛基金) with the stated intention of using it for philanthropy. If this is really the case, that is a considerable sum indeed. Considering dividends, that should amount to more than one billion to be applied to charity each year. On the Web I saw a figure that said that “in 2009, Niu Gensheng’s donations surpassed 418 million yuan.” That, for China’s starving private charity sector, is no small number to be sure.

But this fund’s operations have been “played down” in quite a surprising way, or perhaps I should say mysterious. A charitable fund of such enormous scale, and yet it has no Website of its own. How does it operate? What are its funding rules? And how can civil charity organizations apply to them for assistance? Even if you try dialing “114″ for information, you cannot obtain any contact information whatsoever concerning this “Old Niu Fund.” And when I spoke to friends in the charity sector, they too were at a loss. Where has all that money “Old Niu Fund” is reputed to have spent in fact gone?

The limited number of references you can find to its charitable giving are things like, the “Old Niu Fund donated 300,000 yuan for the building of 100 cisterns in drought-effected areas” . . . One rather large donation was 6.3 million, which was given “to the office of the National Red Army Primary School Construction Project.” These certainly deserve encouragement. However, it’s surely difficult to see how they merit a Lifetime Achievement Award.


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