Philanthropy on rise in China: Bill Gates

Updated: 2012-01-17 17:28


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SAN FRANCISCO - "Remember what you have received. Forget what you gave," Bill Gates said to Xinhua, citing a Chinese proverb to describe the growing popularity of philanthropy in China.

In a recent written interview with Xinhua, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said he believes China will surprise the world in its embrace of philanthropy.

"There is noteworthy philanthropy going on at all levels of society in China, not just among the very fortunate. One neighbor helping another is every bit as praiseworthy as a large monetary gift by a wealthy individual," Gates said.

As co-founder and co-chair of the world's largest transparently operated private foundation, Gates said that he is really excited to see the Chinese people's growing interest in philanthropy and that he is curious about how it will evolve in China.

Many people he met in China acknowledged that philanthropy was still in its early stages of development in the country, but they already had ideas about things they wanted to do, he recalled, adding that this impressed him very much.

With its centuries-old tradition of giving, China is now at a turning point as regards philanthropy, Gates said, noting that with a growing number of successful entrepreneurs, there are now unprecedented opportunities to set an example for future generations.

It is very likely that what they do right now will have a substantial impact on how large-scale philanthropy develops in modern China, he said.

"As it has done in so many other ways, I believe China will surprise the world in its embrace of philanthropy," Gates said.

Talking about his current success as a full-time philanthropist, Gates said many of the elements of success in business and philanthropy are similar, among which innovation is the most important.

Microsoft has always been trying to use a creative approach to solve problems such as how to make a product better and how to make it cheaper, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation operates in a similar fashion, said the chairman of Microsoft, the world's largest software company.

He noted that the market of philanthropy does not give feedback, making rigor especially important in the sector. It requires people to have a healthy attitude toward risk-taking, so they can try new ideas that have a lot of potential without being careless, he said.

Gates said when he was young, his dream was that everyone has a computer, while his dream now is that every life has equal value, which is the belief guiding his foundation.

"I think a shared dream might be the most powerful dream, for example, polio eradication. We get together and make collective efforts for the dream," he said, adding he will make more efforts to that end.

"I am very optimistic that innovation can make it possible to improve more people's lives, faster. But innovation can only have its effect on the poorest if it's coupled with generosity. I am very confident the world will turn much better if we continue our history of generosity," Gates said.