Monday, October 04, 2010

Gates and Buffett Bring Message of Philanthropy to China

NY Times: Gates, Buffett Say China Charity Meeting a Success
WSJ: Gates, Buffett Discuss Charity with China's Wealthy
The Giving Pledge

Last Wednesday, American billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates traveled to China to meet with the nation's wealthiest individuals to encourage charitable donations. The two billionaires have been on a mission to get the wealthiest Americans to donate their fortunes to charity and now are spreading that message abroad. To date, 40 people have taken their Giving Pledge, a moral commitment to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice during their lifetime or after their death.

Now that message is spreading to China. China is second only to the United States in the number of billionaires per country, and 64 of the world's 937 wealthiest people are Chinese, up from only two in 2005. China is unique because these billionaires are first-generation billionaires, and have only come into their wealth in the last 30 years. Because these personal fortunes are so recent, Chinese conversation about charity is new but important. Some Chinese, however, have already proven themselves as philanthropists. Chen Guangbiao, for example, is a 42-year-old recycling-company executive who committed $105 million to the Giving Pledge earlier this month. Donations to charity rose 4% in China last year, and the nation's top 50 contributors more than doubled their gifts, donating 8.21 billion yuan in 2009.

Gates and Buffet both proclaimed that the meeting in China was a success, with two-thirds of those invited to the event in attendance, over half of whom opened up about their own ideas on how philanthropy should operate in China. Buffett noted that the conversations in China were "remarkably similar" to those that he has had in the United States. Buffett said that the Chinese want to give, but many have concerns about donating to charities, particularly with regard to how it will affect their privacy and reputation. The list of guests at the event was not public, but a Chinese source reported that movie star Jet Li, real-estate developers Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, and auto-maker Want Chuanfu were on the list.

Discussion Questions: What do you think the future is for philanthropy in China? Will Gates' and Buffett's visit have an impact on their willingness to embrace philanthropy?

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