Chinese Philanthropist Nearly Excluded from Taiwan for His Giving Practices

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January 27, 2011; Source: WSJ Blogs | Chen Guangbiao, a billionaire who made his fortune on recycling is now recycling his money but in ways that are offending the sensibilities of some. The problem? He not only gives money to established charities, he also gives money – sometimes at large public events, to individual people that he does not know. He puts the money in the red envelopes traditionally used for cash gifts in China

Those that object to Guangbiao’s giving do so on the grounds that his gifts, sometimes carried out with a good deal of fanfare, are “ostentatious” and apparently, government officials in Taiwan nearly disapproved his most recent visit on the grounds that unexpected cash might pose a “challenge” for impoverished recipients.

The 43-year-old Guangbiao sees it differently. He is spreading the word and doing as he sees fit with his money. “I take pleasure in carrying out acts of charity and I hope my actions can inspire more people to follow suit,” he said.

According to Robert Frank, writing for WSJ Blogs, “Rich people in America also sneer at such give-aways. The fad among today’s venture philanthropists is to target their dollars to solve a larger social problem, not give away cash to the poor. Accountability, measurability and efficiency are the buzzwords among today’s American givers.” He goes on to write, “If you want to ‘give back,’ giving money to the poor seems to me a good place to start.”

And in terms of unseemliness, my impression is that there is a small but loud grouping of philanthropists ascribing to the abovementioned theories that might as well just dub themselves “ostentation-r-us” and sometimes even when it is not their money!

What is your take on these philanthropic questions?—Ruth McCambridge

  • Howard Silberstein

    Giving money directly to the poor is the most beneficent and prudent act. Giving funds, for the most part, to solve larger social problems that impact those in poverty never reach the majority of people that the funds were intended to help. The few benefit while the majority suffer. Giving money directly to the poor is definitely a “good place to start”.