China rich make "generous" gifts at Gates and Buffett dinner

Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:59am EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Bill Gates and Warren Buffett received some "very generous" gifts during a dinner in Beijing with a small group of ultra-rich Chinese to promote charity, saying on Thursday that the event had exceeded expectations.

But neither man, two of the world's richest people and keen philanthropists themselves, would give any details, explaining it was up to the people themselves to talk about any donations that may have been made or talked about.

"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about any particular individual. There were some gifts that were very generous," Microsoft founder Gates told a news conference.

"As you know there are some people who've come out publicly and talked about (how) they're going to do quite substantial philanthropy," he added, saying that two-thirds of the people they invited had showed up, or some 50 people.

"We were very impressed. The people we were with last night had ideas about things they wanted to do. They saw the charitable sector at an early stage and were asking about what lessons there might be from the United States," said Gates.

Buffett and Gates are urging American billionaires to give away at least half their wealth during their lifetime or upon their death by signing the Giving Pledge, which so far has 40 members.

Their dinner sparked intense media interest in China, and speculation the two would walk away empty-handed.

But they published an open letter ahead of their China visit saying they did not intend to force anyone in the country to give up their wealth, writing that all they wanted to do was share their experiences and listen to Chinese views.   Continued...

<p>Billionaire financier and Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett (L) and Microsoft founder Bill Gates wait questions at a joint news conference in Beijing September 30, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee</p>