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Contemporary Chinese Philanthropy Literature Review

GCPI Working Paper 1: Zheng, Wenjuan; Ong, Paul; Wong, Karna (2014-2016).

In this literature review examines philanthropy in contemporary China, from the 1970s to the present. We define philanthropy and how civil society organizations (CSOs) operate in this sector. There are universal definitions of philanthropy and charitable acts, but there also cultural differences that make China unique. For this paper, we reviewed Chinese- and English-language publications by researchers from around the world. Currently, scholars are examining the state and society relations through the lens of civil society because of the government administrative and financial control over nongovernment organizations. Although the data are limited, some government reports provide information on donors, donation amounts, recipients, and typical charitable activities that are funded. One of the key research questions for this paper is: Why do the Chinese engage in philanthropy?

We analyze the role of the state, economy, and culture in China. For example, we discuss the politics and laws that encourage or prohibit philanthropic behavior. Recent economic reforms have created both greater wealth and increased inequality in China. Historically, the Chinese culture, family, and religious traditions promoted benevolence and compassion. Philanthropy, however, is moving beyond the family and province, becoming more national and even transnational. Our literature review explores new trends such as online fundraising in the rapidly changing and growing philanthropic sector in China.

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