E-commerce giant Alibaba founder Jack Ma took the top spot on the 2021 Forbes China Philanthropy List, showing the consistency of the entrepreneur’s generosity despite his empire being under strict government scrutiny for its business practices.
The Forbes list, published last week, measures cash given by 100 Chinese entrepreneurs and their businesses in 2020.
Last year, Ma and Alibaba offered combined cash donations of 3.2 billion yuan ($493.6 million), according to Forbes.
Ma has focused more on philanthropy and education since he stepped down as Alibaba chairman in 2019. He has made few public appearances since last October when he delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai on China’s financial system, which was widely considered a trigger for Beijing’s subsequent move to suspend the Shanghai and Hong Kong IPOs of Ant Group, Ma’s fintech company that runs Alipay.
Pony Ma and his internet company Tencent ranked third on the list with 2.6 billion yuan of cash donations, while Zhang Yiming and his tech unicorn ByteDance came in fifth, donating 1.2 billion yuan. Eminent Chinese tech CEOs including Ding Lei of NetEase, Wang Xing of Meituan, Richard Liu of JD.com and Lei Jun of Xiaomi also made it onto the Forbes list.
Overall, the 100 Chinese entrepreneurs on the list donated a total of 24.5 billion yuan in 2020, up from 17.9 billion yuan in 2019, with internet companies accounting for the largest share of charitable-giving in China, with cash donations of 7.8 billion yuan for the year. The increase in part reflects how resilient the country’s internet industry has been in a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred demand for online services.
In recent years, many Chinese tech and internet companies have increased donations in an effort to fulfill their corporate social responsibilities as Beijing urges enterprises not to make profitability their only priority. Over the past week, nearly all the big names in Chinese tech have offered to donate money to flood-battered Henan province in Central China.
Contact reporter Ding Yi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Heather Mowbray (email@example.com)