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Wang Zhenyao: How did I persuade Ray Dalio and Bill Gates to launch a philanthropy institute in China?


Wang Zhenyao, President of China Global Philanthropy Institute and President of China Philanthropy Research Institute, Beijing Normal University

The first popular book in 2018 is undoubtedly the Principle written by the American "Godfather of hedge fund" - Ray Dalio. The Chinese version was sold for 500,000 copies in one month. On February 26, 2018, he started the four days’ talk with Chinese readers. First he came to Beijing campus of China Global Philanthropy Institute. He would build this philanthropy institute just like the Rockefeller family builds the union Medical College. 

China Global Philanthropy Institute, established on November 12, 2015, has a common name but a group of special sponsors: it is founded by five Chinese and American philanthropists who are: Bill Gates, Co-Chairman of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ray Dalio, Chairman and Joint Chief Investment Officer of Bridgewater Associates and Director of Beijing Dalio Public Welfare Foundation, Niu Gensheng, Founder and Honorary President of Lao Niu Foundation, He Qiaonyu, President of the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation and Ye Qingjun, Honorary President of Dunhe Foundation.

He Qiaonyu, among the five initiators, also became a popular international figure in 2018. A Chinese woman donates USD1.5 billion to save endangered animals which is the largest amount of personal donation on wildlife protection in history, according to a video message posted online on January 26 by a popular American talk show. The Chinese woman is He Qiaonyu, Chairman of the Board of OrientalLand Investment Holdings Co., Ltd.

Why does China Global Philanthropy Institute link Wall Street financial giants, world-renowned entrepreneurs and Chinese entrepreneurs? How did the cooperation of the five Chinese and American philanthropists be built? On March 1, the behind-the-scenes "trader"-- President of China Global Philanthropy Institute and President of China Philanthropy Research Institute, Beijing Normal University Wang Zhenyao received an interview with Jiemian News.

Director of Ministry of Civil Affairs resigns to embark on charity

Jiemian News: Why do you want to build a philanthropy institute?

Wang Zhenyao: China's philanthropy education is a big short board. The development of philanthropy in China is mainly after the reform and opening-up, especially in 2004, the central government decided to support the development of philanthropy undertakings. The State Council made deployment in 2005. Therefore, philanthropy in China has only been developed for more than 10 years. I was serving as Director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs in charge of philanthropy and I know the challenge is great.

At that time, the national policy made a great adjustment to philanthropy but the education and teaching system were still rare. More than 10 years ago, there were few universities and specialized philanthropy training institutions. The lack of philanthropy education is unfavorable to the development of philanthropy in China. Later, I decided to resign from the Ministry of Civil Affairs in June 2010 to build a philanthropy institute. Originally I wanted to start education training through think tank and then it becomes bigger and bigger which I didn’t thought of.

Jiemian News: Now some universities have set up philanthropy related majors.

Wang Zhenyao: Yes, it just begins to set up some theoretical courses while the practical training is still rare. Only some local organizations start to organize some training. China's philanthropy education is still behind the developed countries in theory and practice.

Wang Zhenyao made a speech at the opening ceremony of the 2017 EMP Program Spring Class in China Global Philanthropy Institute.

Just like the Rockefeller family founds the union Medical College

Jiemian News: After founds China Philanthropy Research Institute, why do you want to start China Global Philanthropy Institute?

Wang Zhenyao: It actually happened by chance. Mr. Ray Dalio was decisive to it.

When I visited Ray in his house in 2013, the three friends of mine had a chatting and Ray said, "I have to support you. What you are doing is significant.” I thought about it and asked him: "What do you support me for? You, a big shot, are supporting me in a subject or project? or support me to build a philanthropy institute just like the Rockefeller family who founded the union Medical College in China that influenced the Chinese medicine for a hundred of years?” Ray was stumped at that moment.

Ray stunned for a few minutes. Everyone stood up. He had no words for a few minutes and thought for a while. My friend was a little nervous and worried that maybe my English expression made Ray misunderstood. So he explained: "Ray, he is not asking you to run a hospital!" Ray stopped him and said after a while: "This is what we should do. We should build a philanthropy college like the Union Hospital."

With this thought, I took out my notebook and Ray started drawing.

Jiemian News: What did Ray Dalio draw on the notebook?

Wang Zhenyao: He thinks that Chinese philanthropists should cooperate with American philanthropists, such as Bill Gates. He gets more excited and finally he said he will provide 5 million dollars for me to discuss cooperation at Harvard University.

I was stunned. We hadn’t had a long talk and he provides 5 million dollars for supporting me to go to Harvard University to discuss cooperate? He suggests me to discuss on the training program in order to start a philanthropy college.

This is how it is done

Jiemian News: It is challenging from an inspiration to realty. You have not run a school before right? Neither does Ray?

Wang Zhenyao: Actually, although I am a professor of Beijing Normal University, I have not run a school. You know that passion and dream will increase your learning ability because you will learn when you don’t know. I have been constantly learning in Nankai University for the undergraduate, Central China Normal University for graduate program and Peking University for doctor’s program, then studied at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. We also work with international charitable colleges such as the Charity College of University of Indiana. I have also done some charitable education experiments in China Philanthropy Research Institute and have gained some experience and lessons.

On February 26, 2018, the first stop of Ray Dalio's China trip is the Beijing campus of China Global Philanthropy Institute.

Ray introduce to the "half Wall Street" elites

Jiemian News: You had this idea in 2013 and China Global Philanthropy Institute was set up in Shenzhen in 2015. It only takes two years to prepare?

Wang Zhenyao: Yes. In fact, after the discussion in 2013, I discussed it with Harvard University. Soon, Ray felt that there should be a mechanism to be built and he should not be working alone. So we went to Hawaii on New Year's Day in 2014 and opened the East-west Philanthropy Forum. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and other people attended. In their words, the "half Wall Street" elites have arrived.

At that time, Ray told people that they should start a philanthropy college in China. He believes that people are particularly important. Then he introduced me seriously. This is the result of years of friendship. In fact, Ray’s friends in China all have been kept for a few decades.

Jiemian News: How do you meet Ray Dalio?

Wang Zhenyao: I met his son Matthew firstly when I didn't even know about Ray. In early 1990s, Matthew, 11 years old, studied in Beijing and returned to China again at the age of 16 in late 1990s to support homeless orphans in the streets. But the Ministry of Civil Affairs did not have any rules on how a foreigner can help Chinese orphans.

Jiemian News: Does he want to set up a foundation?

Wang Zhenyao: No, does China have this kind thing at that time? He just wanted to help the Chinese orphans and he raised money from the American rich people. His father thinks that his son is doing something good but he doesn't know how to do it either. At this time, they came to me, Director of Disaster Relief Department of Ministry of Civil Affairs at that time. Matthew's spirit touched me and I gave him a hand and in fact, Ray was watching beside.

In Hawaii, Ray told the story. He said that after more than 10 years of observation, he felt that he should help me. He said that I really thought it was important to help orphans and did a lot of co-ordination, so he was impressed. After the introduction, they said great but we did not make a deal in Hawaii. He then flew from Hawaii to Davos to visit Bill Gates and said that Wang Zhenyao should be supported. Bill Gates and I met for a few times and had made deep impression. He immediately agreed.

With their support, I feel it is enough. But Ray said that they are Americans. China's philanthropy should not be operated by the most rich and influential foreigners. He suggested to find three Chinese philanthropists and that the chairman of the philanthropy institute should be Chinese.

So we need to find three Chinese philanthropists. Next in 2014, we started looking for and the three people were found.

Jiemian News: The three Chinese philanthropists are Niu Gensheng, the Founder of Lao Niu Foundation, He Qiaonyu, President of Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation and Ye Qingjun, Honorary President of Dunhe Foundation. How did you get their support?

Wang Zhenyao: It's all a coincidence.

Mr. Niu Gensheng originally supported the founding of China Philanthropy Research Institute. We are old friends and when he learned that we are looking for cooperation with him, he said it was not too much to support the philanthropy college with 2 million dollars.

He Qiaonyu, Chairman of the Board of OrientalLand Investment Holding Group founded the Private Foundation in 2012. In 2014, the foundation came for me with some professional questions because it had planned to be transformed. I introduced some common sense and then casually said that Bill Gates and Ray want to build a philanthropy college in China. Qiaonyu said directly that, “I am in”, very brief.

Xiong Minhua, the Deputy Secretary-General of Zhejiang Dunhe Foundation and the representative of Mr. Ye Qingjun, has been watching all the time. In fact, philanthropists pay great emphasize to people and they are watching what you do, not just listen to what you said. Xiong Minhua and I met for several times and she said she will do something related to the traditional culture. Ms. Xiong Minhua once joked: "Don't you come to me to apply for a project?" She said: "I had some money, right?" She added: "You can also apply for some big amount." I said Ray and Bill Gates want to build a philanthropy college. “Then it's settled”, she said. Then I flew to Hangzhou to visit Mr. Ye Qingjun.

Once the philanthropists have checked it out, they will make a quick decision.

From left to right: Wang Zhenyao, Director of Zhejiang Dunhe Foundation Zhang Zhizhou, Secretary General of Lao Niu Foundation Lei Yongsheng, Ray Dalio, Bill Gates, He Qiaonyu, former President of China Merchants Bank and CEO Ma Weihua.

Promote cooperation between Chinese and foreign philanthropists

Jiemian News: What does the "half Wall Street" elites said in Hawaii?

Wang Zhenyao: They all supported. They thought that Chinese philanthropists were less enthusiastic about the U.S.-China cooperated donation after China becomes rich. Mr. Paulson said at a chat with Mr. Niu Gensheng that he wanted to work with the Chinese government on wetland protection in China but that it lacks strength without Chinese philanthropists. At that time, Mr. Niu Gensheng said he could not help because he did not know well about wetland protection and migratory birds. He said he had no professionals but had some money. How much does it need? How about 1 million dollars? All these words were spoken in my presence. “Alright, let’s make a deal.” He said. Mr. Paulson was surprised because he heard that the Chinese philanthropists were unwilling to pay and that they were rich but unwilling to spend on philanthropy.

In Hawaii, American philanthropists had a different view on Chinese philanthropists. Three Chinese philanthropists and two American philanthropists have collaborated to launch China Global Philanthropy Institute, which has also changed the international image of Chinese philanthropists.

Jiemian News: In 2013, in Hawaii, it has the "half Wall Street" of the United States. What about Chinese philanthropists? Who participated?

Wang Zhenyao: Cao Dewang, Founder of Fuyao Group, Lu Dezhi, Founder of Huamin Charity Foundation and others.

Jiemian News: Some philanthropists reached cooperation right away?

Wang Zhenyao: Paulson, Cao Dewang and Niu Gensheng and others reached cooperation on wetland protection, and later it resulted the moving of Mr. Cao Dewang’s factory to the United States. In fact, it is all resulted from that move.

The meeting in Hawaii is not formal, relatively lazy and everyone has no task. The climate is also good. The American philanthropists asked Mr. Cao Dewang during a meal, how did China's economy take off? Why did it grow so fast? Ray and Paulson asked Mr. Cao Dewang to tell his story. After that Ray said, “Can you write a book about yourself?” He says Americans have no idea why China has grown so fast.

Jiemian News: Does this mean that the gap between Chinese and American entrepreneurs is too deep?

Wang Zhenyao: Well, it is true. We don't really know how they learn things. Sometimes they don't understand what we say, just like we do not understand them. So that deep opening is required when the opening up is developed to a certain extent.meeting, everyone had something more to say and said meet together next year! Now it is the fifth session. We meet together every year.

The GPL program of China Global Philanthropy Institute mainly fosters philanthropists with modern philanthropy ideas.

Establish the supporting system of philanthropy education

Jiemian News: What are the responsibilities of the five sponsors of the philanthropy institute?

Wang Zhenyao: The five sponsors shall provide 2 million dollars a year for five consecutive years. This is a test for me, whether it can be done in five years.

Jiemian News: What is the ideal philanthropy institute?

Wang Zhenyao: At first I want to build a typical academic university while through the two years of practice, we see that China's philanthropy develops rapidly and it needs wide social communication. The training network for education must be established.

Now we are providing education training in Shenzhen and Beijing. The training in Shanghai, Wuhan, southwest and northwest also needs to be carried out. We should cooperate with training institutions throughout China in different forms to establish a large training platform for philanthropy education and establish a support system for the China’s philanthropy education and training cause to cover students, philanthropists, professionals and the public.

I used to be a director-general and division director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs for several decades in charge of affairs for the whole country and not just for the hundreds of students in the college. In the past, I was doing something beneficial for the public by promoting urban and rural subsistence, social assistance and matters of other aspects. I should cooperate with old friends in the Ministry of Civil Affairs to establish a support system for philanthropy education and training to facilitate the big leap in the philanthropy area.

Jiemian News: May I make this conclusion that what you want to do first is elite education and now what you want is elite education and public education?

Wang Zhenyao: Yes, I want at first elite education and simple opening and now I want to improve the public education.

China Global Philanthropy Institute cultivates senior management for philanthropy organizations.

With one million dollars annual salary, the Secretary-General position is still vacant.

Jiemian News: In recent years, the lacking of Chinese philanthropy personnel has become increasingly prominent.

Wang Zhenyao: I think the problem lies in that the philanthropy personnel are unprofessional. Since unprofessional, the network and chain cannot be formed with everybody doing their own things in a poor cooperation. Thus the philanthropy industry is unable to produce excellent products for the society. Now problems related to pension and children come up and the government is willing to make investment in while the philanthropy organizations still lag behind in these aspects. Many philanthropists want to do something but not just donate money. They want to make it more efficient to coordinate with government.

Salary in philanthropy organizations is low if they are not professional and cannot solve social problems. There are no such problems in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan since they have a high level of specialization. The philanthropy in mainland China is like voluntary service. Then the philanthropy talent is not easy to be cultivated.

Jiemian News: There was a piece of news in the philanthropy community two years ago that with one million dollars annual salary, the Secretary-General position was still vacant.

Wang Zhenyao: This is the case. The pay in philanthropy organizations is low since they are unprofessional and it leads to the lacking of philanthropy talents which is also resulted from the insufficient philanthropy education.

Jiemian News: What about the students at China Global Philanthropy Institute? Who are they?

Wang Zhenyao: The first part is philanthropist. The GPL Program makes Chinese philanthropists coordinate and make friends with the world's philanthropists. In last year, more than 40 Chinese philanthropists went to Bill Gates' office and Bill Gates meet them one by one to discuss self-cultivation and social responsibility which are mainly the education in philanthropy theory, culture, mission and leadership.

The second part is the EMP Program and the trainees are senior management of philanthropy organizations. There is an ELP Program each year that the trainees that can go to study in Harvard for three weeks and can communicate with philanthropy organizations in Europe for two weeks to learn about philanthropy practices, service experience, and have discussion on philanthropy management.

The third part is the public, mainly including internet schools of philanthropy, special lectures and salons.

Jiemian News: What kind of philanthropist will China cultivate?

Wang Zhenyao: Modern philanthropists. Chinese entrepreneurs should not only consider philanthropy as a simple donation, but should support and lead the innovation of society. For example, Rockefeller and Bill Gates, they are concerned about the fate of mankind. They don’t simply donate money. For example, autism is a long issue so can we invite scientists to study the problem? If Chinese entrepreneurs are also studying these problems in areas of social innovation to combine philanthropy with social innovation and government policy, I think they can be called modern philanthropists.

Jiemian News: From 2016 to now, what needs to be adjusted by China Global Philanthropy Institute?

Wang Zhenyao: Philanthropy education for the public needs to be enhanced. In addition, the training of philanthropists will also be adjusted. Ray said he will come to the institute twice a year to meet with the trainees. A number of mechanisms will be formed for future cooperation between the institute and the world philanthropists. China's philanthropists, such as Wang Shi, have left the business and I think the conditions are mature.

Jiemian News: China Global Philanthropy Institute will invite these people to be teachers in the future?

Wang Zhenyao: Yes, we have two kinds of teachers in the future – Masters such as these philanthropists and specialized professors to undertake the curriculum.

Jiemian News: Now China Global Philanthropy Institute has opened classes in Beijing and Shenzhen. What about other places?

Wang Zhenyao: On March 10, a Huadong class was opened in Shanghai and now many places of Guizhou are asking us to launch philanthropy training.

Jiemian News: From China Philanthropy Research Institute to China Global Philanthropy Institute, what are your future plans?

Wang Zhenyao: For example, family heritage. Can we build a family heritage learning network? Is there a support system for the research of philanthropy finance? For example, China proposed the rural revitalization ... I think all the philanthropy organizations should collaborate with the government from their own perspective to meet the needs of society and participate in social reforms. This is the next step China's philanthropy organizations should pay special attention to. China Global Philanthropy Institute should also encourage more philanthropists and philanthropy organizations to form positive interactions with the government and the public so as to respond to China’s national policies and social needs.


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