Feature

Where private giving still seems foreign.

The week's news at a glance.

China

Jonathan Watts
The Guardian (U.K.)

China’s communists have discovered the capitalist virtue of philanthropy, said Jonathan Watts in the London Guardian, but the people have been slow to catch on. The Chinese government used to pride itself on providing all social assistance according to the tried-and-true communist model of a centralized economy. Now, though, the government is actually asking the private sector to give more to charity. Natural disasters such as floods and droughts left 15 million Chinese homeless last year—far too many for the government to house. In other countries, ordinary citizens chip in after natural disasters, writing checks to the Red Cross or calling in to telethons to pledge donations. Not in China. As the country modernizes, leaders have noticed with dismay that “the spirit of philanthropy is developing a lot less quickly than the urge to accumulate wealth.” Maybe it’s time for the communists to resurrect “traditional Confucian ethics,” which instruct successful people to help the poor. Until that happens, this massive country will struggle through an economic revolution “with all the pain of Victorian capitalism” but “not much of the charitable benevolence.”

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