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China’s Super-Rich Target Environment, Research in Growing Embrace of Philanthropy

By Zhang Congzhi and Li Rongde
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, is seen at the launch of Alibaba's Australia and New Zealand office at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 4, 2017. Photo: Visual China
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, is seen at the launch of Alibaba's Australia and New Zealand office at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 4, 2017. Photo: Visual China

(Beijing) – China’s top 100 philanthropists have donated more than 110 billion yuan ($15.9 billion) in total over the past six years and an increasing share of it went into research programs and environmental protection, a recent survey found.

The top 13 philanthropists each donated at least one billion yuan over the past six years, according to the report by China Philanthropy Research Institute, affiliated with Beijing Normal University and China Global Philanthropy Institute in Shenzhen.

Pony Ma, CEO of Chinese Internet conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd., topped the list, giving away 17.24 billion yuan in cash and company shares via the Tencent Foundation, launched in 2007.

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., was the number two donor with 17.19 billion yuan gifted to various social causes from 2011 to 2016. Wang Wenbiao, chairman of China Elion Resources Group, was the third-biggest contributor after donating 10 billion yuan.

China recorded 468.5 billion yuan in charitable donations from 2011 to 2015, according to state-backed think tank Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. No official figures are yet available on the amount of charitable giving last year.

Many donors used their money to support education or poverty-alleviation projects, continuing a trend seen in the past, Cheng Fen, the lead author of the report, said. But an increasing number of donations also went toward research and development programs for cutting-edge technology and environmental protection, she said.

Chen Tianqiao, co-founder and CEO of Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, a leading computer game producer, was sixth on the list, giving 6.9 billion yuan to fund research in brain-related fields.

Charles Zhang, founder of another top internet company Sohu.com Inc., came in 48th place with a 213 million yuan donation to Tsinghua University in Beijing for artificial intelligence research.

Chinese philanthropists with big money to give are changing how charitable organizations work, said Wang Zhenyao, head of China Philanthropy Research Institute. “With large sums to give, big donors have taken on the responsibility of bringing social and economic changes,” he said.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com)

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