According to a survey conducted in October 2015, China now has more billionaires than the United States. That’s pretty impressive, especially for a “communist” country, but those billionaires haven’t really turned to philanthropy in any meaningful way. There are likely a number of reasons for this, from the fact that the existence of the ultra-rich is very much a new phenomenon in China, to the tendency of many wealthy Chinese to keep a low profile. Big flashy donations aren’t a good way to stay off the radar.
But that could be changing. Recently Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent holdings Ltd, a Chinese entertainment company, announced that he was donating 100 million shares to charity. That comes out to about $2 billion, of his estimated $18.8 billion fortune, and is frankly a huge sum of money. That money will go towards medical, educational, and environmental organizations through China.
Pony Ma is not the first Chinese billionaire to make such a gesture, as back in 2014 Alibaba founders Jack Ma (no relation) and Joe Tsai donated $3 billion worth of shares between them. Chinese philanthropy recently got another boost when parliament passed it’s first charity law, which attempts to shore up giving in a country where many people do not trust non-profits thanks to a variety of recent scandals there.
China does have a lot of opportunities for people to help, as large parts of the country are still “developing” and aren’t nearly as affluent as the major cities of Beijing, Hong Kong, and the like. As with anywhere else, the rise of ultra-wealthy people in China has come at the expense of others, and charitable giving is a way to make up for that, something that the rich in many other countries take to heart. Hopefully, the Chinese rich will do the same with more frequency following these examples.