The country is emerging as the new center of the super-rich. Yet private charity is still relatively scarce in China.
Does not enjoy much trust either: Delegates of the Chinese People’s Congress Photo: ap
No other country has as many super-rich as China – more billionaires now live in Beijing than in New York. But as far as the willingness to donate is concerned, it looks so far meager. Chen Yidan is one of the exceptions. According to the ranking of the British Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), China ranks second to last out of 145 countries surveyed. Even in Angola, people donate more than in China.
According to the U.S. business magazine Forbes, in 2016 the Chinese were not even willing to spend 0.03 percent of their annual economic output on charitable causes. By comparison, Germans donated around 1.7 percent last year, and Americans almost 2 percent. Even in India, which is much poorer, the willingness to donate is far higher than in the People’s Republic with its many billionaires.
One reason for this is that most wealthy Chinese have not been rich for long. They have made their fortune in a very short time. Many of them think: Easy come, easy go, and fear that their money can quickly be gone again. Philanthropy is traditionally not very well established in China. People mainly help their own clan – which was often quite large, at least in the old days.
Many Chinese were all the more surprised at themselves when millions of people were spontaneously prepared to help during the great earthquake in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan in 2008. But even during the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 in the neighboring Philippines, which killed more than ten thousand people, there was little sympathy.
Many Chinese trust neither their state institutions nor the few private initiatives
In addition, there is a lack of trust: Many Chinese trust neither their state institutions nor the few private initiatives. Several cases became known in which the initiators ran away with collected donations. As a result, the government banned these supposed charities.
Obviously, however, the widespread stinginess has now embarrassed the Chinese leadership. It passed a new donation law in 2016: This allows private organizations to collect donations again. Nevertheless, the willingness to do so has hardly increased since then.