Entrepreneurs, celebrities and charitable foundations: elite philanthropy in China

Edward Elgar
Publication Type:
Handbook of Welfare in China, 2017, 1, pp. 317 - 337
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Foundations provide the basis for philanthropy by the wealthy in developed countries such as the United States (US) and are playing a growing role in the development of elite philanthropy in mainland China. There is no precise definition of the term ‘elite philanthropy’ because the words ‘elite’ and ‘philanthropy’ imply social and economic differentiation and hence are essentially contested concepts. Broadly speaking, elite philanthropy refers to the charitable donations/activities of particularly wealthy people and thus to philanthropy by people at the top of an economic hierarchy (economic elites). These people may also occupy a position of high social standing as the result of birth, achievement or good fortune, or they may be viewed as people who aspire to be seen as social elites and engage in philanthropic activities to ‘buy’ respectability and reputation, by deflecting any ‘bad press’ associated with their acquisition of private wealth (Adams 2009; Ostrower 1995). Whichever the case may be, ‘big money philanthropy’ is a new phenomenon in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
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