Waiting for the Seeds to Grow: Philanthropy in China

The media coverage of the Gates and Buffett dinner with Chinese philanthropist last week in China is still strong. The debate continues on whether the rich will part with their wealth and if they will decide to play a role in philanthropy. Grace at China Philanthropy blog talks about the cultural divide and the public’s mistrust of the wealthy.

A Forbes blog piece by Kevin Lee argues that the classic model of philanthropy today will not work. Instead, he suggests that for-profit social enterprises are the answer. Here is a list of why philanthropy will not work in China: (1) no religious precedent for philanthropy; (2) no cultural precedent; (3) no historical precedent; (4) micro-philanthropy has potential, perhaps later; (5) corporate philanthropy is inept; and (6) NGOs are valuable for inadequate.

While I believe that the enabling environment in China for philanthropy to thrive is not as strong or as friendly as it could be, I remain optimistic that the seeds have been sown and the seeds will bloom. I have worked with individual philanthropists and their families in China and all across Asia. Philanthropy is being practiced. Maybe not at the level we wish it to be or with the strategic focus we want, but it is there.

Last week, I spoke to the media on the growth and potential impact of philanthropy in China. Here are two clips for those interested:

BBC World Tonight, 29/09/2010, Wednesday, starting at 41:15

Voice of America , The Rich Come to Dinner in China, 28/09/2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *