Pierre Fuller: China's Charitable Past





[Pierre Fuller is completing a doctoral dissertation on Chinese charity networks and famine relief at the University of California, Irvine.]

With trade imbalances helping make billionaires of more than a few Chinese, business pages have been abuzz with the promise of at least one American export to China: philanthropy.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are visiting China this week to coax commitments to charity out of their Chinese counterparts. The Americans will be in China to “spread the word that it’s good to give,” said a host on America’s National Public Radio. The visit “underscores what experts say is the relatively immature state of philanthropy in China,” we hear from the Associated Press.

In fact, Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates might as well be bringing gunpowder and fireworks to China.

The relatively small amount of charitable giving in modern, Communist China is an aberration in the longer sweep of Chinese history. In late imperial China, bridges, ferries or schools — what a modern person might see as public or civic facilities — were often run with charitable land or cash endowments set up by local notables. Village social-welfare — in the form of clinics, refugee shelters or soup kitchens — was often paid for and managed by prominent resident households....


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Arnold Shcherban - 9/30/2010

<The relatively small amount of charitable giving in modern, Communist China is an aberration in the longer sweep of Chinese history.>
Communist government of China (which I'm no ideological supporter of) already gives Chinese majority immeasurably more (certainly in relative economic and financial terms) that the American government has ever given to the US majority. That's the main reason behind the "aberration" noting by the author, not because it is a Communist one.

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