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New program raises bar for charity

By Zheng Yangpeng | China Daily | Updated: 2015-10-08 08:45

Peking University Master's course aims to educate talented people in public services

Five years ago, Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, attended a fundraising banquet hosted by iconic financier Warren Buffett and Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates.

The two United States businessmen were advocating that China's new generation of super-rich donate most of their assets to social causes.

Privately, Ma said he approached Buffett and raised the thorny question: "Now you are more than 80 years old, why didn't you donate all your wealth in your 40s?"

Ma was recalling the story at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Master of Social Enterprise Management program, being launched by the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, and property conglomerate China Yintai Holdings Co Ltd.

It is China's first graduate-level program aimed at training talented individuals in public service, especially the charity sector.

His question to Buffett, he said, was based on his long-held view about an entrepreneur's biggest responsibility: that instead of the popularized term "corporate social responsibility", the central duty of an entrepreneur should be to "sustain your business, create wealth, and provide jobs".

"I have always said entrepreneurs' money is actually not their own.

"They have to be constantly making investments to make more money.

"If younger Chinese entrepreneurs donated all their assets, that won't do any good to wider society," he told Buffett, who has run Berkshire Hathaway Inc, the US multinational conglomerate holding company, for the last 50 years.

Twenty-seven students with social enterprise working experience have been enrolled on the new management program.

Ma is chairman of the Guanghua-Yintai Social Enterprise Research Center, and during his opening address he said that China's poor "infrastructure" for philanthropy - including weak institutions, lack of professionals and shattered social trust - still concerns him.

He said he told Buffett that day, "You can entrust your money to Bill Gates, but who in China can I turn to?"

The comments from arguably China's most accomplished entrepreneur came shortly after he had been criticized publicly for not donating to the recovery process after the recent chemical blasts in Tianjin. He said he had been bombarded on social media.

Shen Guojun, president of China Yintai Holdings, who founded Yintai Charity Foundation, shared Ma's grievance.

He said there is still a wide disparity regarding the management of China's myriad charity organizations.

Malpractices discovered within certain organizations have even implicated entrepreneurs who have donated to them. "Donors were not given appreciation in a lot of cases, and nor were many of the staff," said Shen.

"I hope this new program can help workers win the kind of professional respect offered to other professions."

Ma said he was taking part in the project because China's charity institutions must be run in future under stricter commercial lines.

"Successful business enterprises focus on efficiency and results and these principles should be applied to social enterprises too," Ma said.

"We are not looking for 'good guys' to run public services," said Ma.

"We are looking for professionals who can get the job done well."


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