Cultural Traditions and Corporate Philanthropy within the Belt & Road Initiative Workshop


The conference organized by the MRI in cooperation with Minzu University

Cultural Traditions and Corporate Philanthropy within the Belt & Road Initiative Workshop




Language: Chinese/English, with simultaneous interpretation

Time: 30th November, 9:00-12:15, 14:00-18:00

Venue: Meeting Room “Shennon Jia (神农架)”, 4th floor, Hubei Hotel

Barbara Krug: Humanism, Values and Cross-cultural Skills. Lessons from the European Past

YOU Bin: To Develop an Entrepreneur Ethic in Chinese-Christian Dialogue in China?

HAN Siyi: 哀矜与赒救——明清耶儒慈善文化的会通与转化

Obiora Ike: Enhancing Sustainability & Economic Development through Networks of Higher Education

ZHANG Yunguang: Business Ethics in China and in Germany: A Comparison (中德商业道德对观)

Stephan Rothlin: Corporate Philanthropy & Belt&Road Initiative

JIAO Yuqin: “一带一路”上的道教

WANG Zi: 亚洲基督教视阈下的“中国化”("Sinicisation" in Asian Christianity)

PAN Shaoduo: Christians Presence in the Eastern Mediterranean Coastal Countries and Territories

CHEN Rui: The identity of Armenian Christians from the Perspective of the Silk Road

LI Lin: 巴尔多禄茂的生态神学观及其与中国道教文化对比研究

TAN Zemin: “一带一路”视野下的科普特教会 (The Coptic Church in the One Belt and One Road)

PENG Huanhuan: The Roman Catholic Church's Modern Steering and Its Impact on the Belt and Road Initiative: A Case Study of Opus Dei



The Macau Ricci Institute had long standing ties with Minzu University, Beijing. On Saturday 30 November has the MRI organized a conference with the Academy of Religion of Minzu University focused on the topic of "Corporate Philanthropy within the Belt & Road Initiative". It has been fascinating to observe how different religions and wisdom traditions in China while doing trade with other countries have developed concepts and practices of corporate philanthropy. Fr. Stephan Rothlin has summarized the key findings of a 4 year research focused on Corporate Philanthropy in China and Hong Kong.

Summarize by Fr. Stephan Rothlin

Fr. Stephan Rothlin began his team of researchers the Corporate Philanthropy Project (CPP) more four years ago before the promulgation of The China Charity Law by the Twelfth National Peoples Congress, effective September 2016, and the related Law on the Management of the Activities of Overseas NGOs within Mainland China, effective 1 January 2017. Though the purpose of this Handbook has not changed in light of these new laws, they have inspired us to be as practical as possible in the guidance we offer here.

Based on original research conducted throughout 2015 and 2019, our initial hope was to investigate three interrelated questions: “(1) How can philanthropic giving by business corporations, both foreign and domestic, achieve the optimum sustainable benefit to Chinese civil society? (2) How can corporations measure and assess the degree to which their philanthropic objectives in China are met? (3) How can a program of corporate philanthropic giving be encouraged and sustained in China?” The answers we received to these questions through interviews with representatives of organizations involved in philanthropic activities in China, encouraged us to shift the focus from donors and their concerns toward understanding the needs and capacities of recipient groups. We learned that the key to sustainable corporate philanthropy lies in the quality of the donor-recipient relationships, how these are cultivated and managed, how trust and genuine reciprocity are sustained even through the difficulties that inevitably will arise as their interactions unfold. In what follows, we hope to distill what we’ve learned, to enable both local and foreign NGOs to develop sustainable relationships in service to the people of China, while remaining fully compliant with the new laws that China has promulgated to ensure this outcome.

It should come as no surprise that our focus should rest on determining how trust and genuine reciprocity are achieved between donors and recipients. Reciprocity is understood in China as shu (恕), a nearly untranslatable term that defines the Confucian version of the Golden Rule. When asked by his disciple, Zi Gong, for one word that could guide a person throughout his or her life, Confucius answered: "How about 'shu' [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?" (Analects, XV: 24). The meaning of shu, or what the practice of reciprocity entails, can only be learned by observing and participating in basic human relationships, and the shifting patterns of mutual accountability that unfold within them. What one may learn is that human relationships are typically asymmetrical. Sustained over time, they are likely to reverse themselves as, for example, the once totally dependent child grows up and eventually must take responsibility for his or her parents.

Such asymmetry is also evident in the donor-recipient relations characteristic of philanthropy in China. Donors must be prepared to enter into relationships in which recipients learn how to become accountable for the grants they receive, how to become responsible and compliant with the law, how to mature as genuine partners in philanthropic activities. If donors expect recipients already to have acquired the capacities indispensable for sustaining a genuine partnership, they are not likely to find them. The number of local NGOs in China that already are capable of genuine reciprocity may be fewer than the number of donors eager to work with them. Unless donors are prepared to compete for “worthy” or “qualified” recipients, they are better advised to partner with NGOs that share their sense of purpose and focus on specific areas of concern, and then help them develop appropriate accountability structures as their relationship unfolds.

We believe that our insight into the indispensable work of developing relationships of trust and reciprocity distinguishes this Handbook from other efforts to provide guidelines that were done prior to the promulgation of China’s new laws. We have learned a lot, on the one hand, from The Conference Board’s “Corporate Philanthropy in China: A Practitioner’s Guide for Foreign Donors” and from Wang Gaoli’s Philanthropy in China. The contrast between the two is striking, with the former focused on addressing the concerns of foreign MNCs for compliance with Chinese laws and regulations, the cultivation of strategic partnerships, and techniques for increased transparency and accountability; while the latter celebrates the achievements of the Chinese government in creating institutions to serve the social and cultural needs of the people, through the organization of local volunteers and donor organizations, including foreign MNCs. The former is filled with statistical information and prudent advice for managing philanthropic projects; latter is filled with heart-warming stories and loads of vivid photographs of volunteers, both local and foreign, happily doing charitable work, especially through the “corporate citizen movement.” While the two perspectives are not necessarily inconsistent, each presents only half the story of what is required for effective and sustainable philanthropy in China. Our perspective will try to build from what is best in both of them, and take the story forward to a more integrated approach that will clarify the moral basis for philanthropy in Chinese culture, and the impact of initiatives that can and ought to be made in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect for the Chinese people.


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