China Philanthropy

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 such resources will shape the relationships between the individual and the state, between the state and business, and between the state and the social sector. In partnership with one of China’s leading research institutes focused on philanthropy, China Global Philanthropy Institute (CGPI), the Ash Center launched a Global Leaders in Philanthropy Program. The China Philanthropy Project will pursue two innovative research projects as well as a philanthropist workshop and an executive education program for foundation staff to disseminate the findings of such research.

The first research project is creating China’s first systematic and rigorous database of philanthropists, giving levels, recipient organizations, and a host of other research variables related to philanthropists and recipients. The rapid growth of Chinese philanthropic giving has also led to significant levels of mistrust, misinformation, and misunderstanding that have already seemed to hamper the development of the sector. We believe that an independent, verified, and research-oriented design of a Chinese giving database will enable much-needed quantitative research and will also result in indices that can be used by a range of government, academic, media, and non-profit organizations. 

The second project focuses on precedents and models of philanthropic giving that can inform a new generation of wealth in China.  The majority of models and frameworks presented to Chinese philanthropists over the past decade have related to the high profile philanthropists of the West, such as Rockefeller and Ford.  In this project we bring together scholars and practitioners from areas of the world that have clear ideological, institutional, social and political similarities to China, but have remained understudied.  Russia and Eastern Europe are transitional political economies that share aspects of political and institutional foundations with China, and offer lessons for how philanthropic activities are shaped by - and interact with - the state. Philanthropic practices of Chinese in Southeast Asia offer instructive insights into geographies with cultural similarities to China. This project also includes a significant focus on China itself - what traditions does China draw upon and what precedents of state/society dynamics in limiting the growth of philanthropy persist to this day in China? This set of research activities will result in a series of symposia, policy briefs, scholarly articles, and seed further fellowship collaboration internationally.  We also hope that the indices resulting from the first project can be actively tested and used by the international network of scholars and practitioners created by this project.

We also provide two major annual training programs that focus on Chinese philanthropic leaders. The first is a four-day Global Philanthropy Leaders workshop at the Harvard Kennedy School designed for major Chinese philanthropists that equips them with the historical context and analytical models necessary to think about philanthropy and how it is evolving globally. The purpose is to promote understanding of the concepts of the relationship between modern philanthropy and civil society, to support and guide social investment in order to make it more effective and efficient, to improve systems for professional distribution of social resources, and to enhance general knowledge of public administration.  This complements well a three-week Executive Leaders in Philanthropy program designed for the senior staff and executives of emerging Chinese foundations and philanthropic institutions. 

Finally, we offer scholarships and financial support to deserving Chinese degree students and practitioners active in building China's social and philanthropic sector.