China’s billionaires not ready to give like Gates

By Wei Gu
September 28, 2010

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have star power, but even they may struggle to persuade China’s billionaires that celebrity philanthropy is a must. Chinese billionaires feel insecure about their wealth, and trustworthy charities are lacking. Still, as China’s wealth gap widens, the super-rich should start thinking up ways to look more generous.

The Middle Kingdom is home to more dollar billionaires than anywhere except the United States, according to Forbes. But charitable giving accounted for only 0.1 percent of China’s GDP in 2009, versus 2 percent in the United States. Buffett and Gates are set to hold a banquet in China as part of their philanthropy-themed world tour, but some local moguls have reportedly kept a wary distance.

Chinese billionaires aren’t quite like their U.S. counterparts. Charity probably feels like a luxury for the first generation super-rich, most of whom are still building their wealth in China’s young, fast-growing economy. Many want to leave their empire to their children. Buffett, by contrast, has publicly worried about leaving his children too much.

Nor does China make philanthropy easy. China’s charities are mostly state-owned and not transparent. Some have been hit by corruption scandals. Project Hope, backed by the Communist Youth League, was accused by Hong Kong media in 1994 of mislaying $10 million in donations. The result of a National Audit Office investigation was never made public.

Buffett and Gates do have one lesson to teach China’s billionaires: generosity makes the rich more likeable. China’s growth has not reached everyone equally. Its wealth is more concentrated in the hands of than few than that of the United States, according to the World Bank. The ruling Communist Party might try to raise taxes, or dig for dirt in billionaires past dealings, if it senses public anger is rising.

Fortunately, China’s billionaires have one option many rich-country moguls don’t: they can keep investing at home, and get high returns doing so. That has the added advantage of directly creating jobs and raising incomes, even if it doesn’t get counted as traditional philanthropy. The rich should certainly be thinking of ways to win friends, but don’t expect them to start giving like Gates.


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China’s richest man is in jail. They could all follow so easily.

Indeed these billionaires are of a different kind all together.

When wealth isn’t rooted in legitimacy, how could anyone expect it to produce the fruits of charity?

Posted by Neander | Report as abusive

Tired of buying china stuff and being mocked for it ( by its corporates)

Quit for good…

Posted by Roughe | Report as abusive

“Chinese billionaires feel insecure about their wealth”
I’m sorry, but exactly who should learn from who here?? It’s unfortunate for the the West, but I’d say the Chinese Billionaires have a better grasp of economic and human reality.

Posted by Simplerman | Report as abusive

what kind of sentence is this: “Its wealth is more concentrated in the hands of than few than that of the United States…”

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive

“…the super-rich should start thinking up ways to look more generous.”

Telling choice of words. Perhaps it sould’ve been, “…thinking up ways to BE more generous.”

People that wonder why the U.S. has complicated income tax codes rather than a simple flat tax should look no further than the fact that charities would go broke without the incentives provided by the charitable contribution tax break.

Posted by GLK | Report as abusive

“Its wealth is more concentrated in the hands of than few than that of the United States, according to the World Bank. The ruling Communist Party might try to raise taxes, or dig for dirt in billionaires past dealings, if it senses public anger is rising.”

Posted by nelsonjperez | Report as abusive


Please dont subscribe to the stupidity of these two lunatics.
They are hell bent on spending all they have or can get on dead end projects and african breeding programs.

There is not enough food to feed the world, dont throw money at it, let nature do as it has always done best. If you want to spend your wealth, spend it on your own country and people. Gates and Buffet are media hunters,PLEASE THINK ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY, not some endless pit in Africa or Sudan. In China it can work, in Africa it buys a new land cruiser, and a house in France.

Posted by wardy | Report as abusive

The photo that leads this article shows the back of a well dressed woman and her goons.

Andrew Carnegie style philanthropy doesn’t really apply to China. They already have a system that attempts to meet the needs of the masses of the population. These people are rising from a system that did such a thorough scrubbing and reinvention of the culture that they may have no interest at all in spreading values and a cultural ethic. The state does that so effectively already.

The greatest enemy of the new rich isn’t the mass of the great unwashed as it was in Carnegie’s time, it’s that well educated middle tier, who know it is possible to live a decent life without all the trappings of mega wealth.

The mega wealthy are a social experiment the Chinese government (and that more or less reflects popular needs and desires) allows because they serve a useful purpose. And the government will allow them as long as they do that.

They scare me and I don’t even live there. That massive wealth coupled with cradle to grave state control, means they could be monsters in the making. Even if they aren’t, their offspring – however many – could well be so insulated from the masses that they could despise them all.

We have gated and exclusive communities in this country. We have people who won’t be caught dead riding public transportation. The Chinese live in a system that was once so class ridden and so insular it was almost a caste system. You can almost absorb the attitude through your pores by learning the older culture and collecting the what-nots of the old “feudal” days.

China is stuffed with “little emperors and empresses” because of the one child policy. If great wealth allows a dispensation from that policy, the new wealth could find they are rising amid a population that isn’t just seeing red (they already did that) but infrared. If the wealthy can be allowed to have many more children than the majority, that is as much as saying – we have the good genes and the rest of you have garbage genes and we will not allow you to breed.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

They could start by contributing in organizations that are based out of China, which are of international in nature, and of repute,

Posted by ArvindPereira | Report as abusive