Maria Holland

Chinese Generosity

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have been trying to get the world’s billionaires to pledge to give away half of their fortunes.  Recently, they went to China to get those guys on board – and the trip apparently didn’t go so well. 

I just read a NYT article on it, in which they interviewed a few of China’s billionaires.  (Only ones who agreed to participate agreed to be interviewed, though, so there was definitely some self-selection bias). 

The article contained the best description of Chinese generosity that I’ve ever seen:

It’s like water. If you have only a cup, you keep it to yourself. If you have a barrel, you share it with your family. And if you have a river, you share it with everyone.

– Chen Guangbiao, on money

Compare and contrast with the American/Western/Christian view on generosity – go.

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  1. Maria – I don’t understand your last line…”Compare and contrast with the American/Western/Christian view on generosity – go.” Note sure what you meant by the “go”, and not sure I even understand the point you were making by the comparison. The part about family is a little different (though he may have been talking about extended family rather than the more obvious immediate family), but I think most Westerners would agree with the view of sharing more if you have more, don’t you think?

  2. Yeah, I was looking for people’s reactions.

    I think the quote does show a difference, perhaps not as much in practice but certainly in terms of ideals. The Western/Christian view is to give some of what you have, no matter how much there is – not to give out of your surplus, but out of everything. Also, the entire idea of philanthropy and donating to strangers is just not developed in China.

  3. Okay – I see your point. Well said!

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