Charity is not just publicity

Updated: 2014-06-27 07:21

(China Daily)

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Chinese tycoon and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao has proclaimed, with a typical maverick gesture, that Chinese millionaires are also big spenders when it comes to helping those in need. In full-page advertisements in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Chen invited 1,000 "underprivileged" New York citizens to have a free lunch with him at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park on Wednesday and promised to give each of them $300 cash.

Some Chinese netizens criticized him, because in their opinion the many people struggling for life under the poverty line in China are in greater need of such help. But in fact, charity is an expression of humanity and cultural communication without boundaries, said a Xinhua website commentary.

According to Chen himself, his high-profile philanthropic endeavor is aimed at mobilizing more people to do good deeds. Although many have benefited from his philanthropy, his high profile has raised questions and made some others, including the beneficiaries, feel uncomfortable. As a result, it prompts us to ask after genuinely spending large sums of money on charitable causes, why Chen has still not won a good reputation as a philanthropist.

The Americans are more low profile when helping others, and tend to rely more on organizations such as charitable foundations, which offer more systematic and long-lasting assistance to those in need than a one-time publicity event.

But, no matter what, in his unique way, Chen has made his own contribution to philanthropy and what is not welcomed or even rejected should prompt more thought about how to establish an effective and transparent charity system.

Chen's charity meal exposes the beneficiaries to the media spotlight like a labeled commodity, and it is soon-over revelry. Warren Buffett is wiser, as he has initiated an annual charity lunch auction for 15 years, encouraging others to give as well.

Although benevolence has been a traditional Chinese virtue, the philanthropic endeavors of the wealthy have come under public scrutiny in recent years.

The media and the public, rather than arguing over and judging Chen's deeds, would do better to focus on how to transform one-off charity, such as Chen's high-profile lunch, into long-lasting help for those who need it.

(China Daily 06/27/2014 page8)