Readers’ Blog

Why a Chinese Donates $350 million to Harvard?

Popularity 9Viewed 3718 times 2014-9-10 13:46 |Personal category:Feelings|System category:News| Chinese

Why a Chinese Donates $350 million to Harvard?

The latest news says:

Hong Kong tycoon Ronnie Chan and his brother Gerald Chan, have donated $350 million to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).


It is the largest single donation the American university has ever received since founded in 1636

Harvard University renamed the school the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

T. H. Chan, Ronnie Chan’s father, the late founder of Hang Lung Group, who established The Morningside Foundation.

So far, there are only two Harvard schools named after an individual, one is the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the other Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


In July, 2014, the billionaire couple Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin donated $15 million to Harvard to establish a Soho China Scholarship.


At these news, as a Chinese, my first response is:

Why not invest in China's education? 

Chinese colleges, universities and government should think about it profoundly.

As a matter of fact, this phenomenon is worth a careful study and weighing.


To creat a good fame, reputation and promote its brand and image abroad.

To develop a new way out for the future business.

To pave a path to the world elite school for his posterity.

These are all probably understandable.

Most Chinese commentators would have little problem with that, as caring for one's family and friends is traditional in Chinese society. In fact, most critics would do the same if they had the financial means.


Is there other deeper reasons behind their decisions?

Or because these billionaires lose confidence in Chinese Charitable donations system.

Or because they lose confidence when do business with Chinese government, in which they have faced too many Chinese government officials being guilty of malpractice and corruption.

And they know too much as an insider. They can not speak it out, or reluctant to, or dare not.

For there are too many unspoken rules when doing business in China.


America's top colleges are mainly private universities, which are founded and developed mostly on individual donation,

Regarding to the management aspects, the education donation is operated by a special Foundation, respecting the wishes of the donators with an open accounting.

For there is a transparent mechanism, the American colleges gain the public’s trust and attract large mounts of donation from individuals.

In contrast, Chinese philanthropy is less open and transparent, void of a reliable public supervision mechanism.

There is little transparency and accountability in the operation and use of the donation. And this leads to the lack of the public’s trust on the management of the donation runned by Chinese universities and government.


As an old saying goes:

Better return home and make a net than long for fish by the waterside.

So it is better to reflect on where it all goes wrong rather than to envy that the international famous colleges frequently win the favor of Chinese tycoons.



(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




Shake hands


Friends who just made a statement (5 Person)

Like 0 Share


Comment Comment (14 comments)

Reply Report SEARU 2014-9-10 21:08
It is happy for the rich spend more money on education;
We feel sad so many banknotes have been thrown to the overseas instead of our homeland!
Reply Report KristaChen 2014-9-11 17:25
It's a good question that Chinese government and universities shall think it over.  I do believe that billionaires know better than all of us. After all, we common people can do nothing but sorry for so much money went to overseas. Finally, I hope that researchers in Harvard could find more ways to cure some fatal dieases and improve public health for the whole world, for the rich and the poor.
Reply Report KIyer 2014-9-11 17:27
i think the donors have not forgotten about their roots and China. I read somewhere that part of the money funds students of Chinese origin in those elite schools and hence will benefit your countrymen too. Sometimes the benefits are in unexpected and indirect ways.
Many students who have done well in life will reflect and give credit to their teachers and universities no matter where they are. The top schools (universities) in the US, UK and in any country are special. They have earned their reputation over many years by hard work and organisation. The reputation comes first and the money comes afterwards. It does not take too much money, but attitude and hard work to build up a quality institution. I am sure there will be a growing number of Asian schools/universities which will rank in the top, in the future. There is no shortage of funds to build up quality teaching and learning methods. Already there is a perceptible trend in the latest rankings.
Reply Report KIyer 2014-9-11 17:53
You raise very pertinent and valid questions about the system of charity and donations to educational systems in China. These same issues exist in India too. There is such negative public cynicism about the system, its transparency etc. It is so vital to develop public confidence and image building. All western universities do that through the use of media. It is not that they are perfect and incorruptible - they have failings too - but they know how to cultivate and maintain a sufficiently good image. There are ways of organising, handing communication in a way that builds or instills confidence in people. They are so effective that some universities have a budget of the scale of some small countries!! Here again, I would recommend a good use of English and other languages to effect. That is why English is such an important language to master and use effectively. Global images are created more in English than other languages.
Reply Report 财神 2014-9-12 09:18
though we never stop to criticize. somehow somebody donated to the purest educational center, thats good in one point. donation should be donated in suitable situation, that might makes one sinless.. we don't know the hidden intention to grant such a huge amount as donation however there are lots of poorest education institutes and social sectors in China. was Harvard wobble in financial crisis? or they just want to delight with long term fame attaching with reputed western famed one institute or they want to make a Guinness record by donation?
Reply Report liu5222512 2014-9-12 15:59
Thanks for your flowers, Mr. KIyer, Miss Chen, and Mr. Searu.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-9-13 07:20
Why would Harvard need the money, anyway? It is one of the richest schools in America.
Reply Report 丢人现眼 2014-9-13 08:03
Probably the fame of the university attracted the donation. Pertinent research will be attached to the Chan family name for the rest of eternity. I agree there's always some exchange going on when donations like this are made. What that exchange is will remain a mystery to most of us. Conspicuous indeed.

What Chinese schools do you think should have garnered the donation?
Reply Report luckyann 2014-9-13 11:07
The author's  points of view  is thought-provoking .
Reply Report liu5222512 2014-9-13 11:09
teamkrejados: Why would Harvard need the money, anyway? It is one of the richest schools in America.
Money is not everything, but without money, we can do nothing.
Who will say money is enough?
No one will be content with money no matter how much they get.
Reply Report liu5222512 2014-9-13 11:13
丢人现眼: Probably the fame of the university attracted the donation. Pertinent research will be attached to the Chan family name for the rest of eternity. I ag ...
Peking University and Tsing Hua university.
Reply Report liu5222512 2014-9-13 11:14
luckyann: The author's  points of view  is thought-provoking .
Thanks for your compliment.
Reply Report 丢人现眼 2014-9-14 00:46
liu5222512: Peking University and Tsing Hua university.
Do you think those universities need donations? Wouldn't the money be better suited in areas where education is behind?
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-9-14 21:14
The donation was to a department which tries to solve some of the worlds major issues if I remember correctly, maybe he thought by donating to the top department in the world, he can make a difference to many people in the world, maybe he sees himself as less Chinese and more of a "world citizen"

Why MUST he invest in China, just because he is Chinese? Maybe he also doesn't see patriotism in the same way as many Chinese, maybe...being Hong Kong, he doesn't even associate with being Chinese.

Maybe he is utilitarian and was thinking of the good of the many, maybe he has a close friend in that department?

I think your first question is the interesting one "Why not invest in China's education"
There is an inherent assumption that he should...why should he?

Very interesting article though and you are right, Chinese universities should reflect on why he is donating abroad and not in China. Such reflection can only serve to improve Chinese universities

facelist doodle Doodle board

You need to login to comment Login | register


Recent comments

Star blogger










Most Viewed

Most commented

Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email:
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.