As China’s ranks of billionaires balloon, a new culture of high-profile philanthropy has begun to emerge.
On Monday, Tencent founder and chairman Pony Ma pledged to donate 100 million shares of the company, valued around $2 billion, to charity. The new fund will invest in healthcare, education, and environmental protection in mainland China—all hot-button issues as the developing country grapples with an aging population and the environmental repercussions of its industrial boom.
“After 10 years of exploration and participation in philanthropic activities, I increasingly feel a better way to continue giving back to the society is to do it over a longer term and in a more organized way,” Ma said in a Tencent statement. Getting a professional team to oversee these projects will also increase the efficiency of management. I can put my energies to focus on driving Tencent’s strategies and enhancing product experience, as well as lead the overall direction of my philanthropic work.”
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Ma’s donation follows Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma and Joe Tsai’s decision to set up charitable trusts funded by stock options in advance of the company’s IPO. Though China’s number of billionaires has now officially surpassed that of the United States, according to CNN Money, the country has a much shallower history of billionaire-backed philanthropy.