China / Hot Issues

Internet divided over $15m donation to Harvard

( Updated: 2014-07-24 17:19

A Chinese entrepreneur couple recently donated $15 million to Harvard University to support underprivileged Chinese students, a move that has sparked heated debate online.

SOHO China, the country's leading realty developer founded by Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, posted on its account at social networking site Sina Weibo that the couple recently signed an agreement with Harvard University to donate $15 million to the school as part of a project to finance Chinese students to study at top universities around the world. The post has received wide attention, being forwarded 6,181 times and drawing 1,351 comments.

The philanthropic move, however, has generated controversy among Chinese Internet users.

Economist Yao Shujie condemned Pan on a post in his Sina Blog: "Are there any American rich people who donate such a large amount of money to China's schools? Why a Chinese 'tuhao' (nouveau riche) gave his money to a wealthy country rather than to his worse-off homeland… If you are not confident in China, why are you making your fortune on this land?" His post has been read 73,888 times, receiving 1,326 likes.

An Internet user with the handle of "Little Bear Mom cj" voiced support for Yao, saying, "Why Pan donated the money to a university in the US, a country much wealthier than China where many of the schools in rural area lack basic facilities? Moreover, how many of those who go overseas for study can be called 'needy students'? "

There are also voices claiming that the couple's donation is an investment in talent pool for their company, while some labeled the donation as buying an "admission ticket" to Harvard for their son.

On the other hand, some expressed their support for the couple.

Netizen "ZhujiulunshiMrBin" said: "Pan uses his own money - instead of public fund - to set up the scholarship. He is free to subsidize whomever he would like to." An Internet user called "Investment is Reading" said: "American missionaries founded many schools in China back in the period before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Last year, the US-based Blackstone Group donated $100 million to China's Tsinghua University…"

In response to the doubts against him, Pan, who has nearly 17 million followers on Sina Weibo, said on a post that the "scholarship will be used to help overseas Chinese students in need."

Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO China, said: "I'm not concerned in which country the student who has received the scholarship decides to work as long as he or she is going to make some contribution to humanity. No such condition has been laid."

It is learnt that a family earning less than 65,000 yuan ($10,000) per year will be eligible for the scholarship.


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