Gates, Buffett Dine with China’s Rich for Charity

The much-discussed dinner for Chinese millionaires hosted by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett happened last night in a chateau on the outskirts of Beijing. From Today Online:

Mr Buffett and Mr Gates, who have already persuaded 40 wealthy US individuals to their cause, have insisted they will not pressure attendees for money and simply want to learn about charity in China.

It’s “a discussion about philanthropy that will be a two-way exchange that we are looking forward to”, Microsoft founder Gates told reporters in Beijing as billionaire investor Buffett stood at his side.

The state-run Global Times said the guest list of rich industrialists included Mr Pan Shiyi and Ms Zhang Xin, the chairman and CEO of property developer SOHO China, and Mr Niu Gensheng, founder of Mengniu Dairy.

Chinese film star Jet Li, himself a philanthropist, has said he will meet Mr Gates and Mr Buffett before the banquet to chat about charity.

Xinhua news agency reported earlier this month that only a small number of business leaders had confirmed their attendance for fear of being leaned on to give.

And from AP:

The private dinner, in a mansion on the edge of Beijing modeled after the baroque 17th century Chateau de Maisons-Laffitte in France, drew 50 business and philanthropy leaders for a 90-minute discussion, the news release said.

“Some reports had said some invitees to the private dinner in Beijing were reluctant to attend because they did not want to be pressured.

Because of that concern, Gates and Buffett, who have campaigned to persuade American billionaires to give most of their fortunes to charity, issued a letter earlier this month saying they wouldn’t be pushing anyone to give up their fortunes but wanted to promote philanthropy.

…At Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates’ request, the guest list will not be made public, in deference to the privacy of their guests,” the release said.

…Some of China’s super rich are skeptical about Gates’ and Buffett’s approach. China’s wealthy don’t have to “copy the U.S. charity mode,” billionaire Guo Jinshu told Xinhua in a story Wednesday. “In China, an entrepreneur’s top responsibility is to keep his own business sound, to fulfill taxation payments, and create jobs. This is also out of a philanthropist heart.”

Gates and Buffett, who has pledged to give most of his fortune to charity over time with the biggest chunk going to the Gates Foundation, said they just wanted to share experiences with China’s successful businesspeople. But they noted the country’s newly minted wealthy were at a key moment when they could make a significant impact.

“People are doing some very good thinking about how their good fortune can have a positive impact on China and the world,” Gates said in Wednesday’s statement.

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