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China's Missing Philanthropists

China's new wealthy elite are frequently criticized for their apparent lack of sympathy for charitable causes. The sounds of disapproval have grown even louder recently, when retirees are donating pension checks and kids cleaning out their piggy banks to help people in the tsunami-stricken countries.


China Youth Daily recently looked into the reasons given by the wealthy for not being more generous with their gold.


Many fear a domino effect, claiming that if they donate a huge sum of money to charity, their debtors will come and ask for a moratorium on their own repayments. Moreover, they say, conspicuous expenditures may attract the attentions of kidnappers or blackmailers, putting their own lives or those of their families at risk. It is not clear whether they have considered such options as anonymous donation.


Some say that frequent media reports of charity scandals have seriously dented their enthusiasm for donation. Systems are currently undergoing reform to increase transparency, but it is true that in some ways the nation's charitable organizations are still in a fledgling stage.


Tax codes do little to encourage the wealthy -- or anyone else -- to go to the donation box. In the US, tax regulations enable individuals and companies to make substantial deductions from their tax bills for charitable donations. In China, however, maximum deduction is limited to a tiny percentage of income, and donations may only be made to a handful of government-approved organizations.


Finally, there are those among the wealthy elite who say that the Chinese public regards giving to charity as a form of showing off. They say that those who give and make it known are merely doing so as a marketing strategy or form of corporate image promotion.


It is not known whether such motives would lead potential beneficiaries to reject an offer of aid.


(China.org.cn, translated from China Youth Daily by Jiang Wandi, January 14, 2005)

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