Opinion / Xin Zhiming

Jack Ma leads the rich in charity drive

By Xin Zhiming ( Updated: 2014-11-04 09:52

China’s richest person is also the highest donor to charity, reflecting the growing interest of wealthy Chinese in charitable causes, says Hurun Report, a magazine known for ranking the richest people in China.

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, became the country’s richest person this year, according to Forbes. With a total wealth of $25 billion (by Hurun estimates), Ma has donated $2.4 billion to the charity foundation he and his colleague Cai Chongxin have set up.

It may be a coincidence that Ma has become China’s richest person and top philanthropist at the same time, but there is little doubt that the country’s richest people are becoming more altruistic. According to this year’s Hurun philanthropy list, the average donation by the top 100 donors was 200 million yuan ($32.5 million), or 3.6 times that of last year, an almost unprecedented growth rate.

Rich Chinese are known to maintain a low profile and often shun charitable activities — so much so that in 2010, the top two American magnates-turned philanthropists, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway head Warren Buffett, had to travel to China to persuade local tycoons to donate more to charity.

The explosive growth in donation this year is important especially because it signals growing public confidence in charity after the scandals involving some domestic charity foundations in recent years. In 2011, for example, Guo Meimei, a young woman claiming to have connections with Red Cross Society of China, the major government-controlled charity organization, posted clips online showing off her luxurious lifestyle, which aroused public suspicion that she was squandering the money donated to the society by people. Although Red Cross later denied the charges and Guo herself confessed after being arrested for soccer gambling that her money had nothing to do with the society, many people tended to sigh away from charity organizations.

As a sign of such dented public confidence, many rich people, including Jack Ma, have started their own charity funds.

Rich people may have many reasons for maintaining a low profile. By being open about their donations, they could, for instance, receive requests from both government agencies and ordinary people demanding more donations or face stricter tax scrutiny.

Therefore, policymakers should find ways to encourage billionaires as well as those not so rich to donate to charity if they want the trend of rising donations to continue. Although it could take years for the tradition of keeping one’s wealth away from public spotlight to give way to the new trend, there are many things policymakers can do to encourage donation. To start with, they could remove the “gray areas” from, and strictly enforce, the regulations that state donations are exempt from taxation.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News