Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were to host a banquet yesterday for China’s super-rich that has sparked debate about Chinese philanthropy, amid reports that wealthy invitees have been reluctant to attend.
Gates and Buffett, who have already persuaded 40 wealthy US individuals to hand over more than half of their fortunes, have insisted they will not pressure attendees for money and simply want to learn about charity in China.
It’s “a discussion about philanthropy that will be a two-way exchange that we are looking forward to,” software magnate Gates told reporters in Beijing as billionaire investor Buffett stood at his side.
The state-run Global Times said the guest list of rich industrialists included Pan Shiyi (潘石屹) and Zhang Xin (張欣), the chairman and chief executive of property developer SOHO China, and Niu Gensheng (牛根生), founder of Mengniu Dairy.
Chinese film star Jet Li (李連杰), himself a philanthropist, has said he will meet Gates and Buffett before the banquet to chat about charity.
The event is shrouded in secrecy but reports have said the hotel in northwest Beijing where it will take place has been sealed off and emptied of guests.
The banquet has caused a stir in China, the world’s second-largest economy, where the number of rich people is growing fast in parallel with the nation’s stunning economic development.
China had 64 US dollar billionaires last year, second only to the US’ 403, according to Forbes magazine. The number rose 31 percent last year from the previous year, state media has said.
The Global Times said in a commentary piece that philanthropy was still in its infancy in China and was “not popular among Chinese businesspeople.”
“A lack of reliable channels to donate and a lack of supervision on the use of the funds are strong reasons,” it said.
Charitable giving is nevertheless on the rise.