The Evolution of Philanthropy in China

The Evolvement of Philanthropy in China

In this latest BigThink piece (my favorite site for all things intellectual), author of PhilantroCapitalism, Matthew Bishop, answers a few questions on the evolution of philanthropy in China.

The clip is quite timely as I just finished reading the book 2 weeks ago (highly recommend), and was a book tha provided a bit of a laugh when I was invited to meet 2 philanthropists coming through Shanghai not 20 minutes after writing down their names when mentioned in the book.

Anyway, as part of the clip, Bishop spends 3 minutes answering the question “How is philanthropy evolving in China?”.

His answer in some ways surprised me as he showed himself to be keeping up on local news, but at the same time, I found his comments to be a bit superficial as he failed to fully articulate the reasons behind the recent surge in foundations set up in China.

In short, the statement that I took most issue with was what he saw was that China’s rich were now waking up to the fact that there were problems to be solved, problems that the government could not solve on their own, and so in setting up their own foundations… they were going to be part of the solution.

Which, if you were a western analysts believing that these foundations were similar to the ones in the US or UK, i.e independent, he would have been right.  However, the facts on the ground are actually quite different.  That, while Jet Li and Jack Ma may have set up their Foundations, these foundations are still at the end of the day held under China’s GONGOs (government owned non-government organizations), and are not as independent as one would think. .. and sadly, while there are certainly a growing number of citizens who have established foundations because they truly are trying to establish something they can control, many of these foundations are simply a new form of keeping up one’s image (no one wants to be the one without the foundation.. that would be cheap).

That being said, this is the condition now, but will not always be the condition. That, the trend he sees and points out, are in spirit true, but are probably 3-5 years away from being the norm, and when the 1 million followers of Jet Li’s One Foundation will have a true popular culture that reaches 10 million.. 100 million.

.. that, as he said, we will see a ramp up in philanthrocapitalism over the next 5 years.

Which is why we are focused, through our committees, to develop frameworks to help support philanthropy and social innovation.

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