Philanthropy In China – It’s Important to Give Back

Posted by Reading Time: 4 minutes

Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Aug. 16 – As my days in China draw to a close, one of the issues I’d like to draw to the attention of our readers is philanthropy – when successful in the country (or anywhere) I personally believe it’s important to contribute something back to the society that has provided. It’s a curious fact that some expats still seem to have a poor attitude towards China even though they are earning a living here. I always felt it a privilege to be in the country, and although it took awhile for me to get my feet on the ground and the business profitable, I wanted to put something back. The great thing about philanthropy anywhere is that it is not mandatory. The act of giving is a truly personal one, and although debates rage about how best to give, I’ve always followed a few simple rules:

  1. Chose an issue that is close to you personally. You feel more involved and more passionate about it, and that’s quite ok, it’s your hard earned money you’re providing.
  2. Get some satisfaction out of it researching the organization – because it may not be a charity – that you wish to support. Online is a good way of finding out the quality – although some smaller operations may not have that capability. But get involved, I believe it’s important to ‘feel’ where your contribution is going to and how it will be used.
  3. The old China excuse that all China is corrupt and they’ll just rip off your money is an dodge by the expatriate miserly. Do your research. There is abuse, but there are plenty of well run causes out there too. Choose wisely and you’ll find plenty of needy causes out there.
  4. Try to get involved. By definition many causes are cash poor and if money is an issue, they can always do with quite literally, a pair of helping hands. It’s a great way to meet new friends and contacts as well.

I won’t go into any details about how much either myself or my firm contribute or how often, as I feel these are private matters and that benevolence is not a marketing tool. However, for corporate donations, China does allow a tax deduction scheme for donations to charitable enterprises registered with the Government. Many of these China registered entities do outstanding work. However, to give some suggestions, here’s three organizations I regularly support:

Care For Children China
Contact: Robert Glover –
Why They’re Cool: Care For Children do a great job with orphaned and handicapped children across the country and even has a school for disabled kids in Beijing. They additionally hold great social and fundraising events. Care For Children does great work throughout China, including some of the country’s most remote yet beautiful regions. If you’ve ever seen a child defaced by a cleft palate – Care For Children provide state of the art surgery for free to get these children fixed and reabsorbed into society. Both the charity – and the children – need your help. Just RMB2,000 can fix a child’s face.

The Surmang Foundation
Contact: Lee Weingrad –
Why They’re Cool: These guys, only a small team, provide a lot of relief work in remote, ethically Tibetan areas of China, and Qinghai in particular. Working in earthquake hit zones, they help rebuild communities, including infrastructure, school education and healthcare. Qinghai has some of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. They get out to some fairly wild areas, and have some wonderful contributions in terms of paraphernalia they regularly auction off to raise funds. They additionally host excellent wine tastings. If you’re into Wild China and Tibet, you’ll love these guys.

The Snow Leopard Trust
Contact: Siri Okamoto –
Why They’re Cool: Based in Canada, the Snow Leopard Trust is totally dedicated to preserving this amazing animal, which is critically endangered and can still be found in Xinjiang and Tibet. Sponsorship or support helps protect and maintain the mountain habitat – and the way of life and education that is needed to prevent us from losing this most beautiful of animals.

Being in China as an expatriate always means remembering you are a guest in the country. It is respectful, and morally upstanding, to give something back. It is up to the individual and companies concerned to do so of course, however all I can advise that I’ve had a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in helping a hand. It’s just simply the right thing to do.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Founding Partner of Dezan Shira & Associates, and the Publisher of China Briefing.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Founding Partner of Dezan Shira & Associates – a specialist foreign direct investment practice providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. Since its establishment in 1992, the firm has grown into one of Asia’s most versatile full-service consultancies with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Vietnam as well as liaison offices in Italy and the United States.

For further details or to contact the firm, please email, visit, or download the company brochure.

You can stay up to date with the latest business and investment trends across China by subscribing to The China Advantage, our complimentary update service featuring news, commentary, guides, and multimedia resources.

7 thoughts on “Philanthropy In China – It’s Important to Give Back

    R.Souter says:

    Well said Chris and nicely put.

    Siri Okamoto says:

    Thank you Chris for highlighting the Snow Leopard Trust. As Development Director for the Trust, I just wanted to add my thoughts. Snow leopards are found in 12 nations, but no nation means as much to their survival as China. There are only ~4,000-6,500 snow leopards left in the world and China is believed to be home to 2,000 of these amazing cats. It’s taken us some time to really dig our heels into doing conservation work in China, but we’ve made a partnership with an organization called Shan Shui and we’re doing extensive work in Qinghai, especially in the 150,000 sq. km Sanjiangyuan (Three Rivers) Nature Reserve. We have selected the Soujia Landscape as the site for comprehensive landscape level conservation efforts. The region harbours the entire representative complement of mammalian fauna of the Tibetan Plateau. We’ve completed remote camera studies to confirm snow leopard presence and captured some absolutely amazing (and rare!) shots of hunting and feeding behavior. We’re also collecting scat samples for DNA analysis, which will help with further diet studies as well as build a base for future population studies. We’ve also initiated working with monks from the Gongsa Monastery, whose sub-monastery in the Yaqu village acts as a hub for Suojia people. The monks played an important role in helping us with our camera trapping efforts this year and we hope they will help raise awareness for the importance of protecting this highly endangered species. If you would like to learn more about what we do, I always welcome emails and you can explore our website. We have a small staff, but we do honestly read every real email that comes our way! Thank you.

    Thanks you Siri – I can wholeheartedly recommend the Snow Leopard Trust to our readers who may wish to support a worthy – and stunningly beautiful – cause in China in terms of its environment. Siri’s email and the website are both in the main article text above. – CDE

    Lee Weingrad says:

    Thank you Chris for including our work in this article. We’ve been in Qinghai for 20 years now, first operating a summertime clinic then building a year-round venue with local doctors. It’s one of the poorest –and most beautiful– regions in China. In the past 10 years we’ve treated over 150,000 patients for free including meds. Last year our 40 Community Health Workers reduced infant and maternal mortality to zero.

    Thanks again,

    Lee Weingrad says:

    We are in the beginning stages of producing a private, invitation-only
    Fundraiser at Green T House on Oct 13th.

    We have some astounding auction items (not to mention donated items fro Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler and Peter Rowan) and we’ll have music from Matt Forney’s band. Contact Lee at for details.

    Thanks Lee – the Surmang Foundation always has very cool auction items, I encourage anyone in Beijing on October 13th to attend – details also at

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