The bumpy learning curve of China’s charities

Now that China is the 2nd largest economy on the planet, the responsibility of helping the needy may have come of age. Today, China has about 1.1 million millionaires in U.S. dollars and Business Insider reports that there are more than 300 Chinese billionaires—an increase of 64 from the previous year.

In October 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet visited Beijing to convince China’s wealthy to give away their money for a good cause. The result was lukewarm but that may be due to distrust because charities in China do not have much transparency. says, “To many in China, the more money rich people donate, the more respectable they are. If people pledge or donate all their money altruistically, they are regarded as heroes in China. But if they refuse to donate, they would be considered one of the ‘ruthless rich,’ people to be scorned.”

For a quick summary of charitable giving in China—in 2008, after the earthquake that killed thousands and left millions homeless, annual donations reached $15.7 billion U.S.—more than three times what was given in 2007.

However, according to China—after several scandals related to charities causing widespread public outrage—the level of giving dropped dramatically. In 2011, 84.5 Billion Yuan ($13.96 billion U.S.) was given, and in 2012, the number dropped below 70 billion Yuan ($11.57 billion U.S.).

China Daily also reported: Charity organizations have mushroomed since 2004, when China put an end to the government’s monopoly on charity organizations. … In September 2013, the number of non-governmental charities hit 3,361. There were 1,800 in 2008.

The lack of transparency of charity organizations in China as well as a lack of tax incentives such as in the U.S. and many other countries has discouraged people from participating in charity. Meanwhile, volunteerism is still a new phenomenon and only popular among certain youth groups, China Daily reported.

To solve the problem of transparency among Chinese charitable groups, the China Foundation Center has set goals to make Chinese philanthropy more transparent. Their members are a mix of public and private foundations, including the Jet Li One Foundation.

For a comparison, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy reported, Americans donated an estimated $316.23 billion to charitable causes in 2012.… individuals gave $228.93 billion while corporations only gave $18.15 billion.

National Philanthropic reported where the money went: “In 2011, the majority of charitable dollars [in the U.S.] went to religion (32%), education (13%), human services (12%), and grant making foundations (9%).

Another way to measure charitable giving is through volunteering—donating time and not money. In the U.S., 105 million people (ranked 1st in the world) volunteered time compared to China’s 44 million (ranked 4th). Then there’s the number of people helping strangers. China was number one with 283 million people, and the US was in second place with 178 million. [Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index 2012]


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

2 Responses to The bumpy learning curve of China’s charities

  1. So. There’s not that big a difference between people in the final analysis. Customs differ … but people don’t. Not really. Dig even a little bit under the surface and it’s just human beings with all their flaws and virtues. We’re watching Ken Burns “The West” … It’s deja vu all over again.

    • Yes. I’m listening to “The Bully Pulpit”, I think I mentioned that already, and what was going on in the US at that time, in the late 19th century (where I’m at now in the book), it doesn’t sound too much different from today. This class war between the filthy rich and the dirt poor never seems to end.

      The political corruption back then when Teddy R was climbing his way up the political ladder was as bad as it is now.

      This battle between evil and good never ends.


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