Chinese charities exploding in growth, but lacking transparency

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Statistics on charitable foundations in China were announced recently at a public funds forum jointly held by Tsinghua University’s Anti-Corruption and Governance Research Center and the China Foundation Center. Among statistics announced at the meeting, some of the more eyebrow-raising were those on the growth and transparency of China’s public funds over the past five years.

“As of April 2017, net assets of China’s 5688 foundations totaled nearly 120 billion yuan, while their average value of transparency index was only 48.29 which is disappointing,” Professor Cheng of the School of Public Administration stated at the forum. Five years ago however, there were only 2700 foundations in China, whose combined assets amounted to only 57 billion yuan. Professor Cheng concluded that even though China’s philanthropic sector has doubled in growth in the last five years, the transparency of the sector is still not up to standard.

The transparency of public funds is being measured with the foundation transparency index (FTI), a comprehensive index that compiles statistics from public foundations, including their information disclosure and information integrity. The ranking is updated every month, with the most transparent public foundations at the top of the list. The president of the China Foundation Center Tao Ze said that many organizations use their FTI scores as their official proof of transparency. At the same time, the public as well as companies are increasingly using the FTI as a way to judge the transparency of public foundations.

After implementation of the Charity Law last year, requirements on the transparency of organizations increased, which speakers at the forum hope will cause social organizations to take transparency and disclosure of information more seriously.