Thanks to internet technology, online charity is becoming increasingly popular in China.
Speaking at the China Internet Good Summit on May 20th, Wang Aiwen, vice minister of China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, said that in 2021, netizens donated nearly 10 billion RMB through online charities and channels, up 18% from the previous year.
The summit brought together more than a hundred speakers from various fields, including government officials, charity representatives and entrepreneurs, as well as scholars from Oxford and Stanford Universities. Guests are expected to share their thoughts and discuss global philanthropic topics.
The 10 billion RMB ($148 million) in donations raised through internet platforms in China doubled the 52 million pounds ($64.7 million) raised during the iconic annual Red Nose Day fund-raising campaign in 2021, demonstrating the strong development momentum of internet charity in China.
In addition to the country's large population base, another major factor underpinning the rapid development of online charity is the popularization of mobile internet. Tencent (0700.HK), a leading tech company based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, founded the nation's first online charity platform in 2007 and has witnessed its rapid growth over the past five years. In 2021, Chinese netizens made 150 million donations worth of 5.4 billion RMB through the Tencent platform, helping to raise it to the largest internet charity platform globally.
According to Alibaba, another major Chinese tech firm, more than 500 million Chinese consumers made philanthropic purchases through its Tmall and Taobao e-commerce platforms, benefitting 2,450 charitable projects organized by 214 philanthropic institutions.
The rapid development of mobile internet in China penetrates geographic boundaries, allowing consumers to participate in a variety of charitable initiatives nationwide. In a virtual booth set up during this year's Internet Good Summit, visitors can donate and "adopt" wild pandas living hundreds of miles away and watch live streams of their activities through a WeChat mini program called "Panda Home." Thanks to generous donations from Chinese netizens, 1,864 wild pandas in three Chinese provinces have been protected, reducing the risks of living space competition between humans and wild animals.
Internet technology also enriches ways and means of doing philanthropy. For example, people can even donate their daily walking steps through a mobile app called "walking together." The app developer will donate a sum based on the number of steps users contribute. According to Tencent's online charity platform statistics over the past year, nearly 90 million took part in the program donating 1331.9 billion steps combined. Among them, one user donated nearly 70.23 million steps, equivalent to 46,819 kilometers. That's 6,743 kilometers more than the length of our planet's equator.
Furthermore, Chinese internet companies have started to contribute their advanced technologies to the broader public welfare and charity sector, aiming to achieve greater good. In 2021, the Alibaba Charity Foundation released the industry's first blockchain standards for charities. This year, the Tencent Foundation allocated 200 million RMB to subsidize 1,000 digital charity professionals and fund 100 digital charity projects.
The philanthropy industry still needs to tackle a set of challenges, including winning and maintaining public trust, establishing efficient operations and transparent reporting standards, as well as recruiting and retaining top talent, said Cambridge professor Christopher Marquis, who has been studying philanthropy for over a decade.
However, the sector is ripe for continued growth, as disposable incomes increase, digital infrastructure enables easier access to charities, and the government actively participates by creating guidelines and policies to shape this sector, said Marquis.
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