Billionaire Donations Soar in China Push for ‘Common Prosperity’

Seven Chinese billionaires have directed a record $5 billion to charity so far this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, a sum that exceeds by 20% total national giving in 2020. Their pledges, whether through corporate interests, foundations or personal wealth, arrive as President Xi Jinping pushes for “common prosperity,” a sprawling campaign to close the country’s wealth gap.

Xi has emphasized wealth redistribution within China, referring to “common prosperity” goals at least 65 times in speeches and meetings this year, more than double the 30 mentions in all of last year.

It’s not clear what all the policy implications of the campaign will include, but China has identified a “third distribution of wealth” — individual giving and corporate philanthropy — alongside government and market interventions.

In a high-level meeting chaired by Xi on Aug. 17, the government said it “should reasonably adjust excessive incomes and encourage high-income people and companies to give back more to society.” This idea of a “social hand,” according to state media, will rely on moral obligation and social expectation to inspire the country’s richest to divest some of their personal wealth.

he sum of the biggest pledges so far this year already exceeds the nearly 27 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) donated by individuals and Chinese companies in all of 2020, according to the China Charity Ranking, which asks individuals, firms and foundations to report their giving. The full total is higher: high-profile companies and wealthy celebrities, strongly encouraged by state media and online partisans, contributed to more than $600 million in donations for flood relief efforts in Henan Province.

Tech giants have also pledged current and future corporate profits to invest in philanthropy projects, including $15 billion set aside by Tencent Holdings Ltd. for its social responsibility programs and Pinduoduo Inc.’s 10 billion yuan investment for agriculture development.