Chinese Billionaire Chen Guangbiao

Lack of Transparency in Chinese Charities Drives Away Donations

Chinese are contributing more, but to foreign charities


According to a recent study by Beijing Normal University’s Philanthropic Research Institute, more than 80 percent of 2014’s charitable donations, from China’s top 100 philanthropists, were sent to overseas charities due to corruption and a lack of transparency.

According to the study, international charities received more than RMB 24.2 billion, out of a total RMB 30.416 billion, from Chinese philanthropists. Alibaba founder, Jack Ma’s $3 billion charity trust fund accounted for the largest share of all donations, followed by a RMB 452 million donation from He Xiangjian, founder of electronics giant Midea.

Donations in 2014 increased 107 percent from 2013’s RMB 14.7 billion, the first time in four years charitable donations in China have surpassed RMB 30 billion. According to the study, twenty-four Chinese billionaires gave away more than RMB 100 million yuan.

Although this is reason to celebrate, only RMB 4.5 billion donations were made directly to Chinese organizations. Many believe this is largely due to the 2011 Red Cross scandal, when Guo Meimei became famous for posting photos online of her lavish lifestyle. She claimed her trips in private jets and fancy cars were the result of donations to the charity.

In light of that scandal, China’s charities have continued to have problems raising funds. Many philanthropists have established their own trusts or charities, such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, who set up his trust in Singapore. It is funded by share options representing 2 percent of the company’s current equity valued at $150 billion. The fund was meant to combat the country’s worsening environment, and improve education and healthcare.

Natalie Wang

Journalist based in Hong Kong, writes about China and wine.