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Buffett And Gates Could Learn From This Man In China - by : Gady Epstein,

mercredi 8 septembre 2010 par Administrator

There is one Chinese entrepreneur who will not be giving any money away at the behest of billionaire charity mavens Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. That is because he has nothing left to give.

Much has been made in the last few days of the reported reticence of some of China’s billionaires and otherwise well-moneyed CEOs to show at a dinner in Beijing later this month being hosted by the twin titans of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway, who stand as the world’s most philanthropic men of our era, and of course most famous. You probably haven’t heard of Yu Pengnian, but his name belongs prominently in any discussion of philanthropy, especially this particular one about China.

The Shenzhen hotel magnate has never made it onto our annual list of billionaires perhaps because he has given away too much money and property to have a chance to qualify : more than $1.2 billion by some counts. Yu’s philanthropic finale was a public announcement this April that he was giving away his last $470 million in assets : “This will be my last donation. I have nothing more to give away,” he said at the time. “It will all be for charity, no part of it will be inherited by anyone, no part will be used to do business or for investments.”

That money has gone to his Hong Kong-registered Yu Pengnian Foundation, funding student scholarships, Sichuan earthquake relief and the cause that prompted his interest in philosophy, operations for cataracts, which afflicted him a decade ago, as Mark MacKinnon of The Globe and Mail recounted in an engaging profile of the 88-year-old Yu. A self-made success story like his more celebrated counterparts, Yu needs no lessons from Gates and Buffett on charity and leadership. MacKinnon writes :

« In a society where capitalism is just 30 years old, and charitable giving an even younger concept, Mr. Yu says one of his primary goals in making a show out of giving his money away was to set an example to other rich Chinese. “Everybody has a different view of money. Some do good things with it, some rich people do nothing with it. …My goal is to be a leader, a pioneer who encourages rich people, inside and outside of China, to do something charitable.” »

I have asked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where or whether Yu fits into Gates and Buffett’s China plans, and will update if I hear anything (I also have a call into Yu). The foundation has been tight-lipped about the invitees to their China philanthropy dinner, where those expected to attend include Wang Chuanfu of Buffett-invested automaker and battery company BYD, and Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO China. I profiled Zhang this year and discussed her in this column on the political and cultural challenges of increasing philanthropy in China, where the growing ranks of the wealthy are often despised as John D. Rockefeller was a century ago :

« Some of China’s wealthiest may be worthy cartoon-character villains, but some may prove to be worthy role models. We can choose which among them to encourage as they decide how to make the best use of their literal and figurative fortune in life.

Those who are thinking about what good they can do, as Zhang Xin appears to be, do not have an easy road ahead. The political system today does not have any room yet for a Chinese Rockefeller or Gates, as the Communist Party remains fearful of any individual or group outside of the government gaining too much power or influence. But society can make more room for a Chinese billionaire to prove that she means what she says. »

That kind of progress will take time, for the government, for society and for the billionaires. China already has one man, though, who has established himself as a worthy role model. Read the story in The Globe and Mail to learn more about him.

P.S. : It should be noted that it is possible some Chinese billionaires are sending their regrets for the Gates-Buffett dinner for reasons having nothing to do with feeling pressured about charity. It may simply be a matter of scheduling, considering the Sept. 29th event falls on the eve of a major Chinese national holiday, and comes just after another holiday. Granted, “on vacation in Paris” may not be the most ideal of excuses for declining (not quite as handy as “I gave at the office,” for example).

Meanwhile, China’s richest man on our last billionaires list, $7 billion man Zong Qinghou of the beverage giant Wahaha, has a good reason not to show, as far as we are concerned here at Forbes : He is already scheduled to be speaking on a panel that day in Sydney, at the annual Forbes Global CEO Conference.

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