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The Business of Giving

Stewart Kwoh

Newly published research shows that major philanthropic giving by Chinese and Chinese-Americans is soaring in the United States and China, led by wealthy benefactors in Hong Kong. Stewart Kwoh, who's Executive Director and President of non-profit legal organisation, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, and Head of the executive committee of The Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative, explains why.

How did this research begin?
Established three years ago, The Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative is a collaborative study and initiative by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, the University of California Irvine Long US-China Institute, and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. It begins with a bilateral research study that examines the contributions of Chinese and Chinese-American philanthropists. The study currently focuses on the giving patterns of Chinese-Americans and those in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

Why did your group embark on this study?
Its goals are to improve US-China relations by promoting dialogue and collaboration between philanthropists in the two countries; develop philanthropy among the next generation of Chinese and Chinese- American leaders in public and private sectors; and advance Chinese-Americans and Chinese as positive, contributing role models in the US and Greater China.

What have been some of the findings to date?
Chinese and Chinese-American philanthropy is soaring. Between 2006 and 2016, there was a 430 per cent increase in the number of foundations in Greater China. There are now more than 5,545 foundations in Greater China.

For the US, we found that between 2000 and 2014, the growth of Chinese-American foundations increased 418 per cent to more than 1,300 foundations. In the same period, all foundations in the US grew by 195 per cent.

What has been Hong Kong’s contribution?
The giving of Hong Kong philanthropists inspires across both the US and Greater China. For example, in 2013, (Cheung Kong Group Chairman) Li Ka-Shing gave US$130 million to the Guangdong-Technion Israel Institute of Technology. According to The Wall Street Journal, from January 2007 to November 2013, philanthropists from Hong Kong gave more to US colleges than donors in any other city or country.

What is the focus of their giving?
Philanthropists from Hong Kong have a focus on higher education, but they have many other interests as well, such as other aspects of education, cultural preservation and disaster relief.

While the measurable effects of such giving take a long time to evaluate, when Ronnie and Gerald Chan of Hong Kong’s Hang Lung Group gave US$350 million to the Harvard School of Public Health in 2014, and in the same year, Ronnie and (wife) Barbara Chan gave US$20 million to the University of Southern California School of Occupational Health, we can see that the public health and occupational health benefits of these programmes contribute to the health of the people in both the US and in Greater China.

What are the reasons behind the generosity?
We believe that this powerful giving shows that Chinese and Chinese-Americans are giving back to their societies in many helpful ways, especially in education. The beneficiaries in both countries are in the hundreds of millions of people. Recognition by our societies of this giving is important. It breaks down negative stereotypes of Chinese as just taking from our societies. It also shows that where they can make a difference, Chinese-American and Chinese philanthropists will give to their own societies, to each other's societies, and to other continents like Africa. For example, Walter and Shirley Wang have used their company's resources in pipe manufacturing at JM Eagle to provide fresh water to 350,000 people in eight African countries.

Related Link
The Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative 

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