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Opinion

Opinion

Charity not a habit in China

September 25, 2010

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China Daily, Beijing, Sept. 22 on the charity challenge involving Bill Gates and Warren Buffett:

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have invited China’s superrich to their “The Giving Pledge” dinner in Beijing later this month. But will the American philanthropists’ call make rich Chinese open their wallets to charity?

The answer to date is “no,” because the number of rich people who have accepted their invitation can be counted on fingers.

Gates and Buffett launched their “The Giving Pledge” project in the United States in June to convince billionaires to donate 50 percent or more of their wealth to a good cause.

China’s superrich, however, face an embarrassing situation. The number of the superrich in the country has grown with every passing year, possibly at the fastest rate in the world. China today has 875,000 multi-millionaires, 55,000 of whom are billionaires, the highest number of billionaires after the United States. And yet charity remains in the primary stage.

Donations in China reached a record high of $15.74 billion in 2008, which was equal to 0.36 percent of the country’s GDP, after the Sichuan earthquake.

People in China began playing in money only recently. Before the reform and opening-up, the Chinese had had a history of scarcity. So, China’s nouveaux riches may find it difficult to part with even part of their money. They could be thinking that the greatest benefit they can bestow on society is to consolidate their business empires, employ more people and pay taxes.

But change is coming. The country’s top 100 philanthropists have donated $3.3 billion on average 6 percent of their wealth, to charity since 2005.

High-profile donations encourage more people to loosen their purse strings for charity. And China’s entrepreneurs have started playing a more active role in tackling some of the big issues, especially education, health care and poverty alleviation....

A law on charity will go a long way in making things work smoothly. A draft charity law is already under the consideration of the State Council. Once passed, it could help the country clear many hurdles on the road to charity.

Online: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn

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