Warren Buffett & Bill Gates Seek to Soothe Suspicions Over China Philanthropy Visit

Bill Gates, Warren B_33889550
David Goldman

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates will reportedly travel to China later this month to "learn how to do philanthropy" in that nation.

China's Economic Observer newspaper saysGates and Buffett have invited a "select group" of 50 to 60 members of the nation's "business elite" to a "private party" in Beijing.

Some of those invited, however, have declined to attend, apparently over concerns they'd be asked, or even pressured, to make a donation pledge at the event.

In June, Buffett and Gates used Fortune Magazine to publicly challengeAmerica's richest billionaires to pledge they will donate 50 percent of their wealth to charity, and just over three-dozen have already acceptedthat challenge.

Bloomberg quotesa Gates Foundation spokesman in Beijing as saying Buffett and Gates may soon release a letter to ease some of the concerns the Chinese guests will also be put on the spot to make a big pledge. "Our biggest intention for this month’s China trip is to learn how to do philanthropy in China. We would like to learn how to propel the charity business in such a big developing nation."

Fortune Magazine
Source: Fortune Magazine
Fortune Magazine

The spokesman told Bloomberg that very few of those invited have declined. "So far, there are a small number of guests who are not able to turn up, but that’s quite a normal thing."

The Financial Times quotesRupert Hoogewerf, who compiles a list of China's wealthiest people, as saying many in that country question the motives behind charity donations. "The most important stakeholder in all charities in China is always the government, and there is usually a suspicion that a lot of donations are not pure philanthropy but rather influence-buying by wealthy business people."

But Hoogewerf thinks Buffett and Gates may be able to overcome those suspicions because they are "idolized" by Chinese entrepreneurs. "Their coming out here is likely to kickstart philanthropy in China."

Buffett and Gates will also use the trip to visit Chinese companies in which Berkshire Hathaway has invested.

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