Private philanthropy is growing among China’s super-rich.
The country’s billionaires, the first generation of wealthy since market reforms began three decades ago, are giving large sums to charitable causes, although the practice is still in its early stages. Shanghai-based research firm Hurun reports that China hosts one of the highest number of billionaires in the world, but the country’s philanthropy currently amounts to only four percent of the United States’ charitable giving.
That percentage will increase as more people like e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma give back. Ma, who founded the online shopping platform Alibaba, announced earlier this year that he would put around perhaps $3 billion in a philanthropic trust, with the money going to causes related to the environment, health care, and education.
The founders of Chinese real estate company SOHO China, Chief Executive Zhang Xin and her husband, Pan Shiyi, have become the country’s most recent givers, signing a $15 million gift agreement with Harvard University this month, the first stage of a plan for a $100 million endowment to send low-income students from China to elite international universities.
Ms. Zhang worked in a factory before receiving full scholarships to the University of Sussex and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, while Mr. Pan grew up in a poor part of western China. The couple now have a combined value of $3.6 billion and want to provide Chinese students with greater opportunities for success.
“Getting the best education should not only be for those who have the means – it should be for those with the talent,” Ms. Zhang said in a telephone interview with the Wall Street Journal.
SOHO China has channeled their funds into other philanthropic projects as well, with a foundation that builds schools in rural areas in the provinces of Gasu and Qinghai in western China and trains principals and teachers.
“It’s my turn to be generous to others,” Ms. Zhang said.
image credit: soho china foundation