- Jianmei PENG Executive Secretary-General, China Charity Alliance
- Ming Wang Dean, Institute for Philanthropy, Tsinghua University
- Yongguang Xu Chairman, Narada Foundation
- Elizabeth Knup China Country Director, Ford Foundation
In recent years, Chinese philanthropists have become increasingly involved in private, corporate, and institutional giving. This has resulted to and also spurred by the developments in China’s charity law. Panelists in this session shared their insights and history of Chinese philanthropy as well as the implications on the recently enacted China Charity Law on the philanthropic landscape going forward.
Ms Knup set the stage by sharing the following observations: 1) formation of many types of philanthropy almost all at once, in contrast to the West which had a more linear development over a century; 2) the pace of its growth and sophistication exceeded that of the regulatory framework, until very recently with the enactment of the China Charity Law; and 3) the need for building human capacity in the sector, as well as the adjacent ecosystem within which philanthropic actors leverage on each other’s activities.
Mr. Xu provided the overview of China philanthropy over the last three decades. The developments in the philanthropic sector not surprisingly coincided with the gradual decentralization during the 80s as part of the government’s economic and social reform. Fast forward to 2005 whereby efforts were made to support the development of charity both to alleviate poverty and to provide an additional tool to collect money. However, scandals in the use of these funds has held back its development while spurred the need for charity law reform.
Mr. Wang provided the perspective on the recently enacted the Charity Law, was enforced in September 1, 2016. This law provided a set of social and ethical standards for China’s expanding charity sector. This development is expected to further catalyze the growth and development of the charity sector. Enforcement of this new law will be a key step as the enhancement of social, ethical, and moral standards of the sector will stimulate further increase in charitable donations and volunteer services. This newness of this development in China stands in stark contrast to the UK in which its very first charity law (Charitable Uses Act) was enacted in 1601, over four centuries ago.
Ms. Peng emphasized amidst the accelerated pace of economic development over the past two to three decades, from a public welfare point of view, the strains of development, and of urbanization has also left behind some segments of the population. She commented that as a nation there has been a long tradition of philanthropic culture, but the concept of a modern charity is still not widely recognized up until very recently.
Mr. Xu complemented his historical overview with three recent developments: 1) transformation role and impact of technology has had on the philanthropic landscape in China. This trend will continue to be a game changer in the field in China in the coming years; 2) the rise of social enterprises – use of business models to also create social benefits; and 3) in spite of these positive trends, demand continues to outstrip supply of philanthropic resources as well as the market mechanism or platforms to direct these flows.
The panelists also commented on the need for cooperation and collaboration for information platforms given the scattered and disparate social needs, including cross-border cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland China, and across sectors.