Gates, Buffett Discuss Philanthropy With Chinese
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Well, the American billionaires, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, presented a case for philanthropy to wealthy Chinese today, and they claimed a big success.
For weeks, rumors had swirled about miserly Chinese millionaires refusing to meet the pair for fear of having to part with their cash. But Gates and Buffett were all smiles today as they met the press.
NPRs Louisa Lim explains why.
LOUISA LIM: The billionaires' banquet was held at Chateau Laffitte, a faux French castle in the Beijing suburbs. In this appropriately nouveau-riche setting, about 50 Chinese millionaires met the worlds second and third richest men to talk philanthropy.
Perhaps sensitive to accusations of philanthropic imperialism, Warren Buffett was eager to dispel rumors of coercion, even promising not to strong-arm donations over the telephone.
Mr. WARREN BUFFETT (Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.): No one was asked in any way directly or indirectly to sign up to anything last night. And we - Bill and I, will not be calling anybody. What happens in China will depend on how the Chinese people feel about a project of this sort.
LIM: So far, only two Chinese millionaires have been moved to publicly pledge their fortunes to charity. Gates says there were generous gifts at the meal and lots of debate.
Mr. BILL GATES (Chairman, Microsoft Corporation): Thirty years ago, there really weren't people of great wealth, and so what you have is first generation fortunes. So it's natural that they're thinking through, in this society in general, what do you do in terms of giving it away, creating a foundation, what do you do with your children?
LIM: Chinas richest man, Zong Qing Hou, whos made $12 billion from his soft-drink empire, stayed away. Hes on record as saying he suspects philanthropy is largely driven by tax avoidance. Real charity, he says, is making wealth for society and creating jobs.
Rupert Hoogewerf compiles a list of rich Chinese. He says this trip has at least got people talking.
Mr. RUPERT HOOGEWERF (Publisher, Hurun Report): These entrepreneurs, on average for our rich list its 51 years old, 15 years younger than their U.S. counterparts. The real effect that this Warren Buffett/Bill Gates trip is going to brought - is going to have pushed the whole concept of philanthropy into all the MBA schools and CEO forums. Theyve made it into a big topic. I think its fantastic.
LIM: But dont hold your breath for public pledges. Chinas wealthy like to sail beneath the radar, partly because their fortunes may be less than clean. For the rest, as one internet commentator put it: Chinas rich have just got their hands on their fortunes, how can they possibly think about giving them away?
Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.
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