Donations from China's wealthiest philanthropists fell by 17 per cent last year to an average $16 million, as global economic uncertainty curbed even the most generous appetite for giving.
The list of the 100 biggest givers in China was compiled for the ninth year by the Hurun Report, measuring individuals by the value of their cash or cash equivalent donations from 1 January 2011 to 31 March, 2012, according to the Hurun Philanthropy List 2012.
For the third year running windscreen maker Cao Dewang is China’s most generous philanthropist, donating $580 million last year, followed by Xu Jiayin with $120 million and Wang Jianlin with $44 million.
The numbers may look high, especially in comparison to the UK's most generous charitable gift of £76.5 million ($123.5 million) donated by artist David Hockney, according to the Sunday Times Philanthropy List. The UK's average gift just topped 1 per cent of their personal wealth last year, for the first time, while the average donation for the top 100 in China was 1.3 per cent of their personal wealth.
However, according to information from the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation, Chinese philanthropy as a proportion of the nation's wealth is still woefully lacking. The foundation ranks China as 140th on the index of the world's most generous countries. North America is number 1, Ireland is second, Australia third, New Zealand fourth and the UK fifth. Hong Kong comes in at number 11 but China, where the population of billionaires is only second to the US, does not come in until 140.
The Chinese list is skewed by a few larger givers at the top. If you disregard the donations made by the top two philanthropists Cao Dewang and Xu Jiayin, then the average donation drops to 0.8 per cent of their personal wealth.
Twenty philanthropists donated more than RMB 100 millon (equivalent to $16 million) over the past year, a reduction of three individuals from that of last year.
As a caveat, China's billionaires may not necessarily be less generous than their Western counterparts, but possibly more discreet. Philanthropy in the Communist country has historically been considered a private affair. The report said: "In addition to those included on the list, it is recognized that many low-key Chinese philanthropists who would otherwise have been included on the list have remained untraceable."