Edges of a Large Emerging Market Civil Society

My attention was caught by a Globe and Mail article (one of, if not the, leading Canadian newspapers) reporting on China’s top-ranked philanthropists – reported by the Hurun Report (Mark MacKinnon. “China’s top philanthropist shows super-rich how it’s done: He gives it all away,” The Globe and Mail (Saturday July 24, 2010)).  The story is principally about Yu Pengnian who in establishing his foundation (Yu Pengnian Foundation) and delivering about $500 million (actually a total now of $1.3 billion) has essentially given away his entire fortune. 

An interesting story – and a stunner for China.   His life and wealth and now his giving is worth an article no doubt.  But what fascinates me is the emergence of serious philanthropy in this large emerging market country.  There is – as far as I can tell – little tradition for philanthropy in China - this especially given the former Maoist state.  Furthermore, historically, Chinese culture was very family-focused – again not an incentive for building a philanthropic community. 

But here we are with the top three donors for 2009 giving:

  • Yu Pengnian $441 million;
  • Huang Rulun $212 million; and
  • Zhu Mengyi $169 million

And these donors are focusing on health care (Yu Pengnian has a fabulous mobile program to remove cataracts in the elder), education, disaster relief, culture and sports, etc.,   

Philanthropic action has had a huge impact on global governance.  The emergence of this element of civil society has been nothing less than revolutionary.  Think of the impact of the Gates Foundation established by Bill Gates and his wife Melissa French Gates. 

It is stunning but encouraging seeing the emergence of serious philanthropy in China.

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