Wealthy start to dig deep
Updated: 2011-09-30 11:47
By Xu Junqian and Wang Yan (China Daily European Weekly)
'Like spring rain'
The move is seen as a big gesture by 66-year-old Zong, a Hangzhou native who, with many other Zhejiang corporate titans, turned down Warren Buffett and Bill Gates' charity dinner invitation in September.
The two most widely known and admired Westerners in China came here with a mission to encourage philanthropy among the nouveau riche.
They didn't make the guest list public, but Zong later admitted publicly that he had refused the invitation, and became the first billionaire in the country stand up to "all-out donation".
"Charity doesn't equal donation," Zong said. "I have a company with more than 30,000 employees to run, and the first step is to provide them with a good life, and then if possible, create more jobs for more
With a record of selling 38,000 bottles of water every minute, Zong insisted that his philanthropic cause should be like his drink business - quenching the thirst when needed, sustaining like flowing water and keeping a low profile. "Like the spring rain at night," he said, quoting a Chinese poem.
Zheng Minyu, director of the Zhejiang Industry and Commerce Bureau, said he thinks Zong's approach is pragmatic and that it fits the country's current situation.
"What Chen Guangbiao has done is, of course, very admirable," Zheng said, referring to Chen's public giving of money directly to recipients. "But we shall not make it a social norm for every other one to follow, as we won't encourage every soldier to sacrifice their lives in the war."
For Chen himself, what matters is not whether the action was high- or low-profile, but that action was taken. "Charity needs persistency and real actions," he said. "My ultimate goal is to attract more people to help others."
The first generation of Zhejiang businessmen is known for being diligent and thrifty, but by no means stingy.
Statistics from the Zhejiang Civil Affairs Bureau showed that businessmen from the area collectively donated 230 million yuan after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai province, last year. In 2008, after the Wenchuan earthquake, donations from Zhejiang business owners reached 3.5 billion yuan, with material contributions worth an additional 650 million yuan.
According to the charity list released by Forbes China in April, nine businessmen from Zhejiang were among the top 100 donors from the Chinese mainland; the threshold was 14 million yuan. They altogether donated 340 million yuan, ranking sixth, after business owners from Guangdong, Fujian, Beijing, Liaoning and Jiangsu.