Chi­nese wealthy shar­ing more through phi­lan­thropy

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­

The rise in phil­an­thropic giv­ing among the new wealthy class of China is “just the be­gin­ning”, said Zhang Xin, the bil­lion­aire CEO of SOHO China, the largest com­mer­cial real es­tate de­vel­oper in Bei­jing and Shang­hai.

“Be­fore, we didn’t have money. When I was grow­ing up, we didn’t have money,” Zhang told an au­di­ence at the Asia So­ci­ety on Sept 29, ap­pear­ing in a fo­rum on women en­trepreneurs along­side Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, co-founder of the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

“But over the last 30 years, with the eco­nomic re­forms and growth, there are peo­ple like us in a po­si­tion to mon­e­tar­ily help more,” she said. “This is just the be­gin­ning of what will be a lot of peo­ple do­ing it.

“In China, you’re see­ing a lot of peo­ple do it — they’re not com­ing here to do it, Ron­nie [Chan] hap­pens to have done it here a lot,” she said, re­fer­ring to Hong Kong real es­tate ty­coon Ron­nie Chan who made head­lines in 2014 for donat­ing $350 mil­lion to Har­vard Uni­ver­sity. “But you’re re­ally see­ing a gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese phi­lan­thropists com­ing up now” giv­ing in China.

Zhang founded the phil­an­thropic SOHO China Foun­da­tion, which pledged $100 mil­lion to send un­der­priv­i­leged Chi­nese stu­dents to elite uni­ver­si­ties around the world, in­clud­ing $15 mil­lion to Har­vard.

She called Black­stone Group’s Stephen Sch­warz­man an in­spi­ra­tion for cre­at­ing his Sch­warz­man Schol­ars pro­gram, adding that he had ini­tially in­vited her to be­come a donor to the pro­gram with Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity.

“I told him, ‘I’m think­ing of do­ing a SOHO China schol­ar­ship my­self,’ and he said, ‘It doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t want to give money to me, but what­ever you do, you should do it big, be­cause when you do it big, you re­ally be­come a mag­net, you at­tract other peo­ple to come into your way,’” she said.

“I took it to heart,” she said. “I went home and talked to my hus­band and said, ‘We should think about this big­ger, not just lit­tle by lit­tle. How about if we en­dow $100 mil­lion and then we can think about how many hun­dreds and thou­sands of Chi­nese stu­dents can ac­tu­ally go and get the best ed­u­ca­tion?’ ” she said.

Zhang said she views ed­u­ca­tion as the sin­gle big­gest game changer in her life. Grow­ing up, she had very lit­tle money and even­tu­ally saved enough to study abroad. She ended up study­ing eco­nomics at the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex and ob­tained a mas­ter’s de­gree at Cam­bridge. She went on to found SOHO China in 1995 with her hus­band and, ac­cord­ing to Forbes, is now worth $3.3 bil­lion.

“De­spite all the eco­nomic free­dom and great en­tre­pre­neur­ial free­dom in China, ed­u­ca­tion still serves as the big­gest so­cial mo­bil­ity fac­tor,” she said.

“I see more af­flu­ent fam­i­lies like mine send­ing their chil­dren here or around the world to get the best ed­u­ca­tion, but how about the [other] peo­ple — the Zhang Xins of to­day? Do they get the money, the fund­ing to get their ed­u­ca­tion? We still need those,” she said.

We should think about this big­ger, not just lit­tle by lit­tle.” Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO China

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