How the rich in China give

Updated: 2016-01-28 12:10

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Unlike their Western counterparts, China's richest tend to donate their money to single causes, and many tend to support education, according to a new report from the Harvard Kennedy School.

The top 100 Chinese philanthropists donated or pledged $3.8 billion between September 2014 and August 2015, donating for the most part to one cause.

Only one philanthropist - Alibaba's Jack Ma - gave to four different causes, while 71 percent of the top 100 donors gave to one cause.

"This may be because donors often give to causes in which they have a certain expertise or knowledge, thus narrowing the range of sectors addressed. It may also be that early phases of a philanthropic sector's growth can be characterized by giving that is shaped more by personal experience," said Edward Cunningham in the report.

Cunningham is the China programs director for the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a research center at the Kennedy School.

Fifty-nine of the 100 donors support education, and 57.5 percent of all their donations went to that sector, according to the data. Beijing received a fourth of the 2015 education donations, and Chongqing received nearly a fifth.

Many of the donors give to this sector "because of the positive role educational opportunities played in their own lives. Interviews with such donors consistently highlighted such motivations, often complemented by a focus on the donor's own children and furthering their opportunities educationally," said the report.

How the rich in China give

China's top donors include Wanda Group's Wang Jianlin ($48 million), Jack Ma ($20 million) and ENN Group's Wang Yusuo ($46 million).

The average donation made was $8.2 million.

Along with the China's Most Generous: Understanding China's Philanthropic Landscape report released Wednesday, the Ash Center launched an interactive website that tracks the philanthropic activity of China's richest.

The site will be updated annually, tracking the biggest donations made every year going forward. Currently it compiles data on Chinese donations within the country, but the project will potentially expand to Chinese donations overseas, Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the center wanted to expand on the research already being done on China's wealthiest by examining more closely where they were giving their money.

"When you start to think through the impact that private wealth can have in China - socially, politically, economically - we wanted to continue to think about how we would approach it," he said.

"There's lots of ways to enter this area and we felt that there's certainly a lot of good work out there, the majority of it was the wealth aspect - understanding and creating lists of top 10, top 20 wealth holders in China."

(China Daily USA 01/28/2016 page1)