The Microsoft Corp. co-founder, regarded as the world’s richest person, directed his message toward one of the world’s most economically divided nations. He wrote, “Only when we help the poor break away from destitution and illness can the whole world achieve sustainable development … returns from investing in poor people are just as great as from investing in the business world.”
China had 358 billionaires in 2013 -- a 41 percent increase from 2012 -- giving the nation the second-most billionaires of any country in the world, trailing only the United States. Yet it ranks near the bottom in philanthropy, rankling 115th out of 135 in the annual World Giving Index of the Charities Aid Foundation.
In 2010, Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a $38 billion endowment, and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett asked 50 of China’s richest people to a charity dinner in Beijing. Many declined, uncomfortable to be asked for donations.
The philanthropy picture in China is changing, though.
Jack Ma and Joe Tsai, co-founders of China’s e-commerce company Alibaba, announced Friday they would endow a $2 billion foundation -- representing 2 percent of the company’s equity -- with a focus on environment, education and health care. Ma, regarded as the eighth richest man in China, retired last year as Alibaba CEO and has since dedicated much of his time to charitable efforts.