Ebola crisis highlights China's philanthropic shortfall

Mon Nov 3, 2014 4:07pm EST
 
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By Megha Rajagopalan

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has contributed over $120 million to fight the spread of the Ebola virus, but its billionaire tycoons - it has more than anywhere outside the United States - have, publicly at least, donated little to the cause, underscoring an immature culture of philanthropy in the world's second-biggest economy.

As the ranks of China's wealthy and the success of its corporations grow, donating to good causes has yet to take off in a significant way. China sits towards the bottom of the list of countries where people give money to charity, volunteer or help a stranger, according to The World Giving Index, compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation.

Donations to charities totaled 98.9 billion yuan ($16.1 billion) in 2013, according to Chinese government data, recovering from two straight years of declines. For comparison, Americans gave more than $335 billion, according to the National Philanthropic Trust website.

Many big Chinese companies have invested in Africa - China is Africa's leading trading partner - and several operate in West Africa, where Ebola has been at its most lethal, killing close to 5,000 people. These include construction, infrastructure and telecoms firms such as Huawei Technology Co Ltd [HWT.UL], China Henan International Cooperation Group and China Communications Construction Co Ltd.

A Huawei spokeswoman said Africa was an important market, but declined to comment on philanthropy or specific ventures in Ebola-hit countries. China Henan and China Communications Construction did not respond to requests for comment.

The World Food Program (WFP) last month called on Chinese firms and tycoons to donate more to fighting Ebola. "No one's been willing to do anything big yet," said Brett Rierson, the WFP's China representative.

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