Gong Puguang: charities, donors need to improve credibility

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The China Philanthropist (CP) magazine recently interviewed Gong Puguang, vice-chairman of the Social Construction Committee of the National People’s Congress and president of the China Charity Federation. During the interview, Gong shared insights on the challenges and opportunities faced by the philanthropy sector in China’s march towards becoming a modernized country and achieving common prosperity.


Modernized philanthropy with Chinese characteristics


CP: In the 20th Party Congress Report, the central government put forward new requirements for philanthropy. How do you interpret this?


Gong: It is worth noting that the report refined the previously used term social groups as social organizations (the Chinese equivalent for NGOs) and individuals and highlighted them as the primary force for promoting philanthropic development. The report also further stated that philanthropy requires the participation of all sectors and aspects of society.


In China, philanthropy has become an integral part of the economic and social governance institutions, an important embodiment of its core socialist values, and an essential force in the third distribution of income and in promoting common prosperity.


CP: You have repeatedly stressed the need to develop modernized philanthropy with Chinese characteristics. Why do you emphasize Chinese characteristics? How do you personally see and understand philanthropy with Chinese characteristics?


Gong: I strongly agree with the view that philanthropy has no national boundaries, but has national conditions. Although philanthropism is a value shared by humanity, there are still significant differences between Chinese philanthropy and Western philanthropy in terms of history, culture, social functions, political attributes and development models. Thus, Chinese philanthropy cannot simply copy the Western model.


Philanthropy in China is inseparable from government management. The Chinese government has set up numerous foundations and charities, hosted major charitable events and issued two national lotteries to raise funds for charitable organizations. In addition, the government is also essential in mobilizing all sectors of society to participate in fundraising, especially in response to public emergencies. 


New opportunities and higher requirements


CP: What difficulties do we still need to overcome to promote the high-quality development of philanthropy in China?


Gong: Although the related legislative framework and supervision system around philanthropy has improved and there is increasing participation of the public in philanthropic causes, the Chinese philanthropy sector still faces various problems.


Firstly, the potential of philanthropy needs to be explored. In recent years, China’s total annual charitable donations hovered at 140 to 150 billion yuan ($20 to 22 billion). There hasn’t been insignificant increases and charitable donations account for less than 0.2 percent of the country’s GDP, with donations per capita just above 100 yuan. 


Secondly, the rule of law needs to be strengthened. The Charity Law and supporting policies are not yet complete, and the lack of implementation of existing regulations and policies is still a harsh reality. 


Thirdly, the environment for the development of philanthropy needs to be further improved. The philanthropy sector needs more policy incentives, more encouragement for donors and charitable organizations, more generous tax concessions, stronger public awareness, and more tolerant and friendly public opinion.


Fourth, the development of regulations and policies around online philanthropy is lagging. China is witnessing the trend of “internet plus charity”. However, the existing regulatory framework is not up to date and the code of conduct for public participation in charitable activities online needs to be defined.


Besides the aforementioned aspects, China’s philanthropy also needs to strengthen itself in the face of public emergencies and charitable organizations need to put more effort into strengthening their organizational structure.


CP: In the face of new opportunities and challenges, what should NGOs do?


Gong: Charitable organizations and donors should improve their credibility. For organizations, it is crucial to be open, transparent, fair and impartial, and conduct their entire work processes in compliance with the Charity Law and related regulations. For donors, acting under the regulatory framework is also important. When a donation is pledged, the donor should honor it.