Charity Surges on the Mainland as Donations Fall in the U.S.; ‘Time for Us to Give,’ top Chinese Philanthropist Says
HONG KONG—A real-estate and hotel tycoon’s billion-dollar giveaway is the latest sign that Chinese philanthropy has come of age.
Last month, Yu Pengnian said he is transferring his remaining fortune, estimated at $470 million in cash and property, to the charity he founded.
Mr. Yu’s gift brings to $1.2 billion the total of his donations to the Yu Pengnian Founation. Hurun Report, a group that ranks China’s wealthiest people, calls him the first philanthropist in mainland China to give away more than $1 billion. While Mr. Yu made his fortune in Hong Kong, he is now based in Shenzhen.
China’s Yu Pengnian made a fortune in real estate, and now he’s giving it back. The 88-year-old tycoon has slowly been transferring his wealth to his Yu Pengnian Foundation, and now he’s gone the final step, pledging his final $470 million in cash and property to the charity.
This makes $1.2 billion he has put into his charity since he opened it in 2003, according to China Daily.
“This will be my last donation. I have nothing more to give away,” he said at a press conference announcing the final donation.
The Yu Pengnian Foundation funds cataract surgeries for people in China. More than 150,000 surgeries have been performed in the last seven years. It also provides other monetary support for people in China’s poorest regions.
Yu has several children, none of whom will inherit any of his fortunes, a move he says his children agree with. “If my children are more capable than me, it’s not necessary to leave a lot of money to them. If they are incompetent, a lot of money will only be harmful to them,” he said.
Yu started out poor, and suffered from cataracts, which inspired him to start his charitable foundation.
giving it all away
April 28, 2010 · 1 Comment
Comedian Steven Wright once mused, “You never know what you have until its gone. I wanted to know what I had, so I got rid of everything.”
It is not known whether or not Wright has begun a career moonlighting as a financial advisor. What is apparent, however, is that one of the world’s richest men (it’s still men who are the richest) has given away his fortune to charity.
Yu Pengnian, the Chinese real-estate tycoon, has transferred his entire $1.2 billion estate to his Yu Pengnian Foundation, which he started in 2003 to provide support for the poorest regions in his country, in particular to pay for cataract surgeries, which the billionaire suffered from before accumulating his fortune.
As a result of benefacting his own foundation, his children will forgo their inheritance. (A mutual decision they have been included in.)
And while it is unlikely that Yu Pengnian was inspired by Wright’s deadpan comic observation, his actions do seem reminiscent of Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine’s radical financial offering Die Broke.
Dying broke is the pinnacle pillar of Levine and Pollan’s four-part plan. (“Quit today. Pay cash. Don’t retire. And most important: Die broke.”)
In Chapter 5, which expounds on their Die Broke Philosophy, they offer this advice: “Use your resources to help people now when you know they need it, when it will do the most good, rather than hoping they’ll be helped when you’re dead.” As well as this caution: “Every dollar that is left in your bank account when you die is a dollar wasted.”
Die Broke is not a radical social justice philanthropy manifesto. Pollan and Levine’s financial urgings concern providing monetary assistance to one’s own children when they enter into adulthood as much as they apply to any sort of charitable, let alone social change, giving. And yet, the idea of not hoarding an estate, not passing down an aristocratic inheritance, is quite a radical idea in itself. Especially in a society where “he (the masculine, again) who dies with the most toys wins.”
If you don’t hoard your money for a tomorrow you know will never come, then you must use it today. Engage the world as a person with affluence.
“Money and fame are mediums to be used,” Zane Fischer reminds us, “like paint or steel or ideas.”
Yu Pengnian has done just that. He has used his money. He has given away his fortune. “I have nothing more to give,” he announced at the press conference where he pledged all of his remaining property and cash (totaling $470 million).
He has made it a certainty that he will die broke.