Chinese Tech Titans Fund Beijing’s Efforts to Close Income Gap
During the three-day World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen, China this week, the country’s top tech moguls rushed to show their support for the “prosperity” initiative. commune ”of Beijing.
Their enthusiasm for the initiative comes amid a year of crackdown on the country’s tech industry, where several prominent companies have faced investigations and fines. Formerly high-profile celebrity CEOs now keep a low profile.
Daniel Zhang, CEO of giant e-commerce group Alibaba, said his company’s $ 15 billion donation to the initiative over the next five years represents his willingness to help China achieve its prosperity goal for all.
Zhou Hongyi, billionaire entrepreneur and chief executive officer of the country’s largest internet security company, Qihoo 360, said his company would donate an as yet undisclosed amount to the initiative and work to help small businesses to thrive.
Emphasizing the need to develop these businesses, Zhou said, “Our success depends on the policies of our country.… We must take the initiative to align our development with our national strategies and to serve our country with science and technology.”
Lei Jun, CEO of consumer electronics maker Xiaomi, said technological development should be used to achieve social good, and tech companies should help build a good life for everyone.
Other tech giants, such as tech conglomerate Tencent, online agricultural market Pinduoduo, and food delivery platform Meituan, have answered Beijing’s call ahead of the September 26-28 rally, promising financial support for social causes.
“Common Prosperity” Initiative
During his first eight years in power, Chinese President Xi Jinping sometimes referred to the term “common prosperity”. Since February, when he declared that China has eliminated poverty, “common prosperity” has become one of his favorite themes.
At a meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Financial and Economic Affairs Committee on August 17, Xi stressed that those who are already wealthy should guide and help others achieve prosperity.
“Common prosperity means prosperity for all, not just a few,” said Mr. a meeting note released by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua. “We can allow some to get rich first, but then we must launch a scientific public policy to ensure that every citizen can have their fair share.”
At the heart of achieving common prosperity is a concept known as the three distributions, first introduced by Chinese economist Li Yining in the 1990s.
According to the explanation of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, the first distribution of wealth is through market competition. The second is carried out by the state through taxes, subsidies and social protection programs. The third distribution calls on businesses and individuals to redistribute their wealth through voluntary donations.
“The target of this round of the Common Prosperity Initiative is the wallet of wealthy national entrepreneurs,” Lu Jun, founder of influential non-governmental organization Beijing Yirenping Center, said in a telephone interview with VOA Mandarin. His NGO focuses on eliminating discrimination and defending the rights of disadvantaged groups.
Wang Hsin-Hsien, professor of political science and president of the Institute of East Asian Studies at National Cheng-Chi University of Taiwan, told VOA Mandarin that companies are essentially forced to do charitable giving in the current system.
“China’s current Common Prosperity Initiative is controlled by the party-state. This means that big companies have to donate in order to show that they are choosing the right side. So I don’t think these donations will be voluntary. “he told VOA Mandarin. by telephone.
“This is not the charitable giving that we see in Western countries, because eventually the money will be returned to the state for redistribution,” he added.
Meanwhile, analysts say this new wave of donations is unlikely to help boost Chinese civil society.
NGOs under the microscope
China was tighten its grip on NGOs since 2016, requiring them to provide specific funding sources and member information or risk being banned.
This year, China announced a new wave of repression targeting NGOs. In May, the Ministry of Civil Affairs began targeting “illegal NGOs with measures such as limiting their access to conference venues, advertising resources and manpower,” according to state media. . China daily.
“These measures were part of a larger campaign launched last month by the ministry and 21 other central agencies to crack down on unregistered NGOs, which have posed as foundations, industry associations and other non-governmental groups to raise money. public money ”, China daily noted.
Lu told VOA Mandarin that the NGOs that can survive or get funding will be the ones that align their goals with the government’s agenda – unlike many NGOs outside of China, whose views diverge from those of the government. government.
“I don’t think this is necessarily good news for NGOs, because I think the money given by private companies will go to government-run or government-affiliated NGOs,” he said of the third distribution.
“Beijing will not allow companies to donate freely to independent NGOs, let alone those they dislike, such as NGOs working on human rights, labor rights and women’s rights.”