Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have declared their meeting to promote philanthropy among fifty of China's richest people a success, the New York Times reports.
The two billionaires traveled to China three months after launching the Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage America's richest individuals to give at least half their wealth to charity. The announcement of the trip last month led to weeks of speculation about whether China's newly minted class of super-rich would embrace Western philanthropic standards, and at one point it was reported that some Chinese tycoons had turned down the invitation to the meeting because they feared they would be pressed to donate.
Despite those initial concerns, Gates and Buffett pronounced the meeting an unqualified success, noting that two-thirds of the individuals who were invited had shown up and that more than half the people at the dinner had offered their own ideas on how Chinese philanthropy should work. As with four earlier dinners held in the United States, no one at the event was asked to donate or make a promise to engage in charity. Although the guest list was not made public, Chinese news media reported that it included the film star Jet Li; Niu Gensheng, the founder of a Chinese dairy business; and Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, who control the SOHO China real estate empire.
China is widely reported to be second only to the United States in the number of people with a net worth of at least a billion dollars. The country's billionaire class has emerged only in the last three decades, however, and philanthropic practices that are taken for granted by the mega-rich in Europe and North America are still new and open to question in China. "What you have is a first generation of fortune," said Gates, "and it's natural they they're thinking through, in this society in particular, 'What do you do?'"