Increasing numbers of Chinese millionaires devote themselves to charity

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“The hope for education in China does not lie in the developed first-tier cities, but in rural areas. To measure whether a country is powerful enough you have to look not at its strongest aspects, but at the weakest ones. We should all be grateful to every rural teacher who stays here”. Jack Ma, the famous founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, made the comment above in Sanya, Hainan province, during the awards ceremony for the “Jack Ma Rural Teacher Initiative”.

The “Jack Ma Rural Teacher Initiative” is a program carried out by the Jack Ma Foundation. The initiative was launched in September 2015, and already covers 13 provinces this year. 100 teachers are chosen annually and granted 100,000 yuan and opportunities for training and development. Meanwhile the Foundation has also established the “Jack Ma Rural School Principal Initiative”, promising to donate 200 million yuan in ten years. Each principal awarded will be given 500,000 yuan and opportunities to study and visit abroad.

The Jack Ma Foundation, as its name suggests, was initiated and established by Jack Ma. The foundation is however not the only charitable organization that the famous businessman has involved himself in. For instance, in March 2010 Ma joined the China Council of the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and became the first Chinese to join the Global Council of TNC on April 16. In September 2010, Ma and his wife became part of the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences and promised to donate $300 million annually. The Prizes are set to encourage scientists working on treatment of cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other diseases. In December 2010 Ma, along with another 16 millionaires, established the Western Sichuan Nature Conservatory, which is the first non-governmental nature conservatory in China.

Entrepreneurs like Ma Huateng and Niu Gensheng have also followed in Jack Ma’s steps. Last April Ma Huateng, chief executive officer and executive board member of Tencent Inc., announced that he would donate 1 billion Tencent Stocks in order to support research on medicine, education and environmental protection. Not to be outdone Niu Gensheng, the founder of Mengniu Diary, set up the Lao Niu Foundation, a philanthropic organization involved in a number of charitable issues, including education and environmental protection. In order to support the foundation, Niu donated all his shares in Mengniu Dairy to the foundation. Niu is also working with American charity organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and TNC.

According to research published by Forbes, the number of Chinese whose property exceeds $1 billion increased by 38% and their net assets increased by $170 billion to $830 billion in 2015. Xie Shihong, a Hong Kong expert on China’s civil society and philanthropy, says that “in the last ten years we have witnessed a new mood in philanthropy, strongly influenced by western society. We can see these influences at work in the Charity Law, which expands the traditional notion of philanthropy.”