China has often been regarded as an “uncharitable” culture. Based on the numbers, there is a large gap between philanthropy in China and the U.S., with only .17 percent of China’s total GDP in 2014 contributed to philanthropy compared to that of the U.S.’s 12 percent of its total GDP. However, the rise of philanthropy in China cannot be ignored as the country is going through a “Philanthropy Evolution.”
Through traditions like Confucianism, philanthropy is not a nonexistent concept in China. Throughout the text of Confucianism’s “The Analects,” the concept of philanthropy prevails, often enforcing the idea that man should give to people who are less fortunate. During Communist China, philanthropy soon became a concept for only the wealthy.
Why China is Regarded as Uncharitable
Corruption often strays many people away from donating. Prior to 2011, many organizations and charities in China functioned in a quasi-legal environment. Enforcement was often categorized as “unpredictable and inconsistent.”
An important and well-known case is the Red Cross Society incident in 2011 in which a woman who held a senior position soon began flashing new and luxurious items. According to the New York Times, “[the scandal] struck a serious blow to China’s nascent notions of philanthropy, especially efforts guided by the government.”
The rate of development of a country may, in fact, have a correlation to the country’s overall philanthropic activities. Western countries such as the U.S. were able to create and maintain wealth for a much longer period of time as they developed. This was not the same for China.
If one looks at philanthropy in regard to wealthy entrepreneurs and their contributions, “[China has only] sustained real economic power for just over 10 years; therefore, Chinese enterprises are still in the stage of creating wealth.” Not only are Chinese enterprises still in this stage of creating wealth, but before the last decade, charity remained “a state-controlled process focused almost solely on Communist party priorities.”
Change in Philanthropy
The rise of philanthropy in China can be credited to the efforts of the country. For example, the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China passed a New Charity Law that took effect on September 1, 2016. Key areas of interest comprised in this new charity law include registration as a charitable organization, new rules for fundraising platforms, new rules for fundraising organizations, the establishment of charitable trusts and law enforcement. The New Charity Law, in fact, makes it easier to raise funds from the general public.
With legal modifications, the internet has made donating funds and supporting charitable organizations much easier for the public. Philanthropy leaders in China understood quickly that social media had a huge impact and began using it to promote a nonprofit sector that was able to link news-related social issues to social media users across China.
With a couple taps on sites such as Tencent Online Donation platform, Sina Micro-Philanthropy Platform and Alipay E-Philanthropy Platform, ordinary people are able to donate money to different charities with ease. According to the China Online Donations Report, “the total online donations through third-party social network donation platforms surpassed $83 million in 2013.” Similarly, in 2013, the Jet Li foundation raised over $49 million in donations through social media for the victims of the Lushan Earthquake.
Continuing the Rise of Philanthropy in China
Many organizations are working to keep propelling philanthropic efforts forward. For instance, The Asia Foundation reports that “Give2Asia hosted a forum in Beijing, which brought together over 60 leaders from different sectors of philanthropy, government and business to discuss the current state of charitable giving in China, and new directions and opportunities for philanthropists in the future.” The forum discussed that funds had risen by ¥97 million after the earthquake and that there was an increase of about 100 million volunteers through China.
Furthermore, in order to change the philanthropic sector, and to fill the gap between China’s philanthropic activities and other countries, the government, charities and people must work together. Yet, with China’s legal modifications, a rise of philanthropists and a change in the general public’s mindset, the future of philanthropy is looking bright in China.
– Emma Martin