China's rich are giving it away

By Zou Hanru (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-04-20 11:27

In a world of fast-expanding human desire and greed, giving away one's wealth is a rare virtue. In fact, many billionaires in China are now making huge donations for education, social welfare and healthcare.

According to the 2007 Hurun Report's Chinese Philanthropists List, compiled by Briton Rupert Hoogewerf, 30 of the China's 100 richest were among the 100 most generous in 2006, up from 20 the previous year.

"Almost all the top 100 rich Chinese are considering the concept of charity. With a good policy environment, more and more wealthy people are setting up their own charitable funds," Hoogewerf reported. Of the total 10 billion yuan ($1.23 billion) donated last year, the amount given by the 100 was 3.9 billion yuan compared with 3.75 billion yuan the previous year.

Shenzhen hotel entrepreneur Yu Pengnian topped the list of 100 philanthropists last year with 2 billion yuan ($258 million). Most of his money went to cataract surgery for some 100,000 people.

Niu Gensheng, chairman of Mengniu Group, has promised to donate all his shares in the dairy group to a charitable fund he set up in 2005.

Billionaires make news for financial success. They make headlines especially when they make it to Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest.

Humanity is benefited through their benevolence. By giving away wealth, billionaires can help mitigate human misery. Their grace enlightens society.

Warren Buffett, the world's second-richest man at the time, made an unprecedented announcement last year that he was donating $37 billion to the foundation run by his friend Bill Gates, then the world's richest man.

According to Fortune magazine, Buffett, with total assets worth $44 billion, gave away 85 percent of his wealth from his stock in Berkshire Hathaway to five foundations. The donation was the single largest charitable gift in US history.

Buffet believes that giving one's children too much money is a burden, not a gift.

According to him, a very rich person should leave his children enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing. Buffet and his wife had decided that they would not pass huge amounts of money to their children since they believed their children grew up with the advantages of wealth. 

Buffet said they had "a gigantic head start, and that dynastic mega wealth would further tilt the playing field in America, when we should be trying to make it more level." And that is why he gave away his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight disease, reduce poverty and improve education.

The Chinese government also has a role in creating a social and taxation environment to promote philanthropic giving. Fairer regulations and faster administrative procedures must be ensured so that the rich don't experience obstacles in giving away their money.

Philanthropy is a means to build community by growing community funds. It is a means of affecting social change. Billionaires can take the pioneering role to make the best use of their money so that others emulate them.

In this age of unrestrained individualism, we need to teach our young to give more value to helping others. Therein lies enduring happiness. Noble deeds reveal a state of mind.

Through benevolence, these billionaires have proved that it is the mind, and not the wallet, that is the road to contentment.


(China Daily 04/20/2007 page10)

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