New Ash Center Research Initiative Maps China's Philanthropic Landscape

January 26, 2016

Cambridge, MA -- The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a leading research center at the Harvard Kennedy School, today launched China’s Most Generous, a groundbreaking new initiative on China’s philanthropic sector. The interactive site examines China’s contemporary philanthropic landscape by analyzing the background and giving of China’s most generous individuals.

The rise of private wealth is one of the most important developments in modern China, with implications for the country’s social, economic, and political arenas. How individuals choose to deploy their wealth will shape the relationships between the individual and the state, between the state and business, and between the state and the social sector for generations to come. “Our research sheds important light on emerging philanthropic trends in China and provides a unique understanding of how China’s wealthy choose to support charitable causes,” said Edward Cunningham, China Programs Director at the Ash Center. 

Key research findings from the project include: 

  • Wang Miaotong, Chairman of Century Huatong Co. Ltd. in Zhejiang province, tops the 2015 Generosity Index at 5.61% of his publicly disclosed net worth.
  • He Xiangjian, founder of Midea Group Co. Ltd. in Guangdong, tops the 2015 Giving List at ¥400 million ($63 million).
  • China's wealthiest prefer to give in their home provinces – six out of every 10 RMB donated by the Top 100 is given locally.
  • China’s poorest areas such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu and Yunnan combined receive only 1.96% of top 100 giving.
  • Education is the most popular cause of choice. Despite the acute environmental challenges facing China in 2015, environmental causes rank last in funding received.
  • Total donations and pledges of China’s Top 100 philanthropists account for a quarter of all philanthropic donations within China in 2014.
  • 4 out of the top 10 philanthropists hail from the real estate sector.
  • 24 of these donors have never appeared in major philanthropic rankings.
  • Mean donation: ¥52 million ($8.2 million). Median donation: ¥20 million ($3.1 million).
  • China’s top philanthropists average 54 years of age. In the U.S., average giving as a percentage of net worth increases with age.
  • China’s philanthropists are professionalizing, with 17 donors operating their own foundations in 2015.

China’s Most Generous is the first research initiative of the Ash Center’s China Philanthropy Project, which was established through the generosity of the Dalio Foundation and supports the recently launched China Global Philanthropy Institute (CGPI) in China.

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance, the Innovations in Government Program, and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu