The education sector is gaining more popularity and capital from Chinese entrepreneurs, especially from tech heavyweights ramping up their donations.
The latest Hurun report showed education has become the biggest recipient of donations by Chinese entrepreneurs, accounting for 35 percent of the total.
Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of Tencent Holdings Ltd, is the second-biggest donor in the Hurun China Philanthropy List 2019, behind only Lu Weiding, CEO of the Hangzhou-based auto parts manufacturer Wanxiang Group.
With a donation of 3.45 billion yuan ($498 million), Chen is the biggest donor among internet tycoons last year.
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Chen is not alone. Recent years have seen a rising tide of donations by the nation’s tech executives to universities and a marked preference by them to set up research institutes or scholarship projects.
“Education is the mother of innovation and is the fundamental driving force for social progress. It has the power to transform lives,” Chen said in an interview with China Daily.
His remarks came shortly after the billionaire announced the donation of company shares worth over HK$4 billion ($511.4 million) to promote progress in education.
Baidu CEO Robin Li and his wife have donated a total of 660 million yuan to set up a fund in Peking University. Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma established the Ma & Morley Scholarship at the University of Newcastle in Australia.
The latest donation by Chen will be used to facilitate the matching of premium education projects worldwide and support educational development as well as pioneering projects in the field, he said.
“We also aim to promote China to play a more important role in global educational communication. Projects that can really serve social needs and educational development will be priorities,” he added.
In 2016, Chen donated HK$2.5 billion to fund the Yidan Prize to recognize groundbreaking education research, in what was the world’s biggest education prize at that time.
He recalled in an interview that the idea blossomed around the time he stepped down from his role in Tencent: “I wanted to create a prize that went beyond religion, race, and nationality.”
“The ultimate point is not about money but casting light on the best to recognize groundbreaking work being done by the few whose efforts will do good for many,” he noted.
Chen’s efforts also reflect a broader trend of Tencent and other tech companies of putting “tech for good” in their vision and hoping to leverage the use of technology for more social benefits.
Tencent introduced the motto and said it is looking to “improve people’s quality of life through internet value-added services.”
Its founder and CEO Pony Ma Huateng also expressed his willingness into putting “tech for good” as part of the company’s vision and development strategy.
The Shenzhen-based firm has leveraged its big data capabilities to beef up efficiency of traditional industries. Its ecosystem also enables the firm to facilitate people’s lives such as applying for visas, Ma noted during a summit.