Creating a philanthropic culture and citizenry in China : child and youth philanthropy

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This thesis looks at efforts to create a philanthropic culture and citizenry in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with a focus on education about philanthropy for young people. In this study philanthropy is defined as ‘the planned and structured giving of money, time, information, goods and services, and voice and influence, to improve the wellbeing of humanity and the community’ (‘Philanthropy’ n.d.). Efforts to teach children and youth about philanthropy are significant because of the relative newness of philanthropy as a concept in the PRC. Following the PRC’s founding in 1949 and the establishment of a socialist society, older forms of organized charity were eliminated from everyday life. Government-organized charities were established in the 1990s, but the Chinese government has only given policy support for the development of a domestic non-profit sector since the 1990s, and especially since the 2000s. The thesis begins by addressing the subject of philanthropy more broadly: What kinds of legal frameworks and institutions have government authorities put in place to promote the development of philanthropy in China? How have other actors and agencies been encouraged to engage in and promote that development? It then focuses on the subject of philanthropy education: What forms of philanthropic education have been developed for young people in the PRC? What particular capacities are Chinese children and youth expected to develop as a result of coming into contact with such education? These questions are addressed through a discursive examination of government documents on education and philanthropy and government-led campaigns to promote philanthropy and volunteering. The thesis also examines different media designed to popularize philanthropy. These include: two school textbooks on philanthropy developed with public and private funding; a national public service campaign aimed at teaching children how to be contemporary philanthropic citizens through a re-vitalization of the exemplary character Lei Feng, who was a socialist-era role model; and programming with philanthropy-related content on central and provincial television. The study reveals that philanthropy education in present-day China combines elements of neoliberal governmental rationalities with Chinese cultural forms, especially reconstituted concepts of ‘traditional Chinese virtues’ and ‘socialist’ imagery, ideals and practices. It is focused on the shaping and production of young Chinese people as simultaneously ‘Chinese’, socialist and international philanthropic citizens.
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