Chinese philanthropist gains int'l recognition

By Guo Yiming
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Wang Zhenyao, Dean of the China Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University. [File Photo/]

Wang Zhenyao, Dean of the China Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University (BNU) and one of the frontrunners of China's emerging charity field, had never imagined cooperating with Bill Gates in philanthropy and mobilizing so many resources to launch a philanthropic education program.

Dr. Wang, 61, formerly Director-General of the Department of Social Welfare and Charity Promotion in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, is now embracing his latest post as the president of the newly-founded Shenzhen International Philanthropy Academy after garnering support from five world-renowned charity groups including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dalio Foundation.

On Nov. 12, 2015, more than a dozen famed philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Jack Ma witnessed the inauguration of China's first international philanthropy academy with initial funding of 10 million yuan (US$1.564 million), and annual total support of US$10 billion from five major charitable groups covering the next five years.

Dr. Wang aims to build a comprehensive college or university covering the philanthropy field during the next five years, based on the achievement of his institute at BNU, modeled on top-notch philanthropy academies overseas.

"Our program is really blessed with support from various fields, including philanthropists like Bill Gates as well as government agencies like the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Civil Affairs," said Dr. Wang, who wants to see his students not only with academic degrees but qualifications recognized by related authorities.

In recent years, Chinese philanthropists have been intensifying their international exchanges and have gained recognition and respect from their overseas counterparts.

"The founding of the International Philanthropy Academy marks the beginning of an institutional and cooperative exchange between Chinese and foreign charity enthusiasts," said Dr. Wang.

He described it as a milestone in China's international charity engagement. "In my opinion, foreign involvement and support in building the academy is a seamless connection between Chinese and Western civilization on the basis of equality and mutual respect."

Still, China's philanthropic cause remains somewhat unbalanced. Though many Chinese have grown wealthy, few embrace the practice of philanthropy in a manner and scale comparable to their Western counterparts.

Dr. Wang admitted there is still a long way to go for China's philanthropy circles in emergency response and relief. However, he is patient with this catch-up process, saying that "China can still make 'miracles' in philanthropy and mirror the country's leapfrog development of industrialization."

The standing committee of the National People's Congress deliberated on a draft of China's first charity law at its bimonthly session at the end of October. This aims to regulate charities and protect the interests of donors, beneficiaries and volunteers.

The proposed new law has drawn wide public attention. Dr. Wang hailed it as a turning point for China to embrace philanthropy as a kind of "public morality" for the first time, instead of as merely a private or individual behavior.

Dr. Wang expects a wide ripple effect when the law is finally enacted. "It will drive the whole industry. If the charity sector can account for 10 percent of employment here in China as in other countries, it would provide 80 million jobs and be a big driving force for GDP growth."

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