A Chinese property tycoon and his wife who were criticised for giving $15 million to Harvard University, already the world’s richest – have defended their decision, saying that under-privileged Chinese students stood to benefit from their largesse.
A Chinese property tycoon and his wife who were criticised for giving $15 million to Harvard University, already the world’s richest – have defended their decision, saying that under-privileged Chinese students stood to benefit from their largesse, the English People’s Daily reported.
A few days ago, Soho China, Beijing’s largest property developer, said that chairman Pan Shiyi and his wife, Zhang Xin, had agreed with the renowned university to donate the sum for a “Soho China Scholarship”. According to one report, Chinese social media forums expressed unhappiness that the money hadn’t been spent on local universities instead.
Agricultural Bank of China chief economist Xiang Songzuo, was quoted saying that while the couple had “the freedom to donate” to whomever they liked, he asked why wealthy Chinese were not more willing to help local institutions.
In response, Pan Shiyi said that the donation will only be used for scholarships to underprivileged Chinese students who have been admitted to the world-class university, reports said.
The saga highlights how the considerable wealth amassed by some Chinese individuals and families has the power to stir resentments in a country that, amid its shift towards capitalism – while still being a Communist-run state - contains considerable inequality of wealth.
Harvard has an endowment of $32.3 billion, making it the richest such institution in the US and the world. The rankings of rich universities are dominated by the those in the US, such as Yale and Stanford. As a comparison, the National University of Singapore ranks 35th in the Non-Profit Colleges Online index of the top 50. In the UK, Oxford University ranks 17th and Cambridge (UK) is 13th.
(Editor’s note: This story ought to be a reminder to wealth managers with philanthropy advisory offerings that their clients need to be given advice not just on the best ways to give, but to think, however unpalatable it may be, about the public relations aspects.)