Controversy erupts between two leading figures in China’s charity sector

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Controversy has erupted between two big names in China’s charity sector: Xu Yongguang, director of the Narada Foundation, and Kang Xiaoguang, a Renmin University professor who focuses on the non-profit sector. Xu has long been a proponent of the view that the Chinese charity sector should operate in a more market-driven fashion, and last year he in fact penned an article to that effect for CDB. His newly published book Charity to the Right, Enterprise to Left ( 《公益向右,商业向左》), which makes the same point, has just been on the receiving end of a review by professor Kang in which it is savaged with a striking level of fury.

The Renmin University professor really doesn’t mince his words: in his review, he states that Xu’s book is based on an uncultured, parochial commercial stance, which sings the praises of the business sector while playing down the role of charity. He further contests that Xu’s theory (which he calls the “Yongguang fallacy”, or 永光谬论) with its “wrong methodology, messy logic and evil stance”, has in fact become a nefarious strand of thought running through the wider non-profit community, which in his view risks leading it astray.

The review has elicited many firebacks, criticising Kang’s “grandiose language”, “weak logic” and “taking Xu’s words out of context”. Xu Yongguang has also written an article in response, trying to downplay the whole episode and claiming it to be a “disagreement between gentlemen”. On the other hand, Kang has also won quite a few supporters, including Peking University’s guest professor Chen Jinluo, who sees Kang’s review as a meaningful form of debate, the likes of which hasn’t been seen for years.

Some more moderate opinions have also been voiced, for instance by Chinese Philanthropists‘ subeditor Zhang Weisheng, who hopes this debate can bring us a profounder, more rational and systematic discussion, rather than line picking, squabbling, or personalization of the issues. Meanwhile the acting director-general and secretary-general of Dunhe Foundation, Chen Yueguang, has proposed a public debate for the dissenting duo, and offered to be the moderator.