Philanthropic donations in China are rising with the numbers of newly minted millionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs. Since 2010 philanthropic donations from the top 100 philanthropists in China more than tripled to around $5 billion. With 609 billionaires, China now has more than the 552 billionaires found in the United States. The number of registered non-profit and charitable foundations grew by 430% between 2006 and 2016, and this has had a knock-on effect in the increase in Chinese-American foundations and donations, with an increase of 418% between 2000 and 2014.
Not that charitable giving is a new phenomenon in China, it stretches back for thousands of years, but after 1949 when many NGOs and private charitable organizations were shut down, it stagnated. Reforms and the rise of the Chinese entrepreneurs has seen a sharp increase in philanthropic donations. The 2016 Charity Law also helped to legitimize philanthropic activities in China as well as make the entire sector more transparent, raise the profile of giving and expand civil society. The new law seeks to make it easier for individuals and corporations to establish non-profit organizations as well as easing the ways that non-profits can raise funds and hire staff for foundations. The law also encourages charitable giving by providing added tax incentives for charitable donations.

The Profile of a Chinese Philanthropist

Many of China’s top philanthropists focus on a single issue and donate heavily to programs in that sphere rather than spreading their donations across several areas. The most common area for large donations in China is education. Billionaires Zhao Weiguo, Zhao Jing and Pang Shengdong have all made significant donations to educational programs. The profile of donations is slightly different to the west with much of the philanthropy in China coming from individuals as opposed to families and family foundations, as much of the wealth is first generation, but this profile is slowly evolving with over one quarter of China’s wealthiest individuals having established foundations that donate to a myriad of causes and programs.

Largest Philanthropists

Who are the biggest philanthropists in China and where are they placing their donations? In 2015, Chairman of Oceanwide Holdings, Lu Zhiqiang, donated $115 million to Fudan University. Charitable giving extends further than mainland China itself to Hong Kong and to an increase in the rise of Chinese-American donations. Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs Ronnie and Gerald Chan Chi-chung donated $350 million to Harvard University, and Li Ka-shing, made a $130 million to Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
Some of China’s most prolific philanthropists include:

  • Hong Qi, Pesident of China Minsheng Banking – $55 million yuan
  • Tang Lixin, Founder and CEO of Shinesun Group – 345 million yuan
  • Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, China’s largest real estate developer – 328.97 million yuan
  • Pony Ma Huateng, Founder, and CEO of one of China’s largest Internet companies – 326.34 million yuan
  • Xing Fuping, Chairman of Livon Group – 310 million yuan

The increase in Chinese philanthropy and the rise of the new dynasty of Chinese philanthropists is showing no signs of slowing. In the next few years, more foundations will be set up and more initiatives and programs will be able to benefit from increased donations from Chinese philanthropists.