The Ice Bucket Challenge, A Lesson For China's Philanthropy

Chinese have looked skeptically at charitable organizations, for cultural reasons and a series of scandals. But as China's rich and famous join the ALS challenge, something may be changing.

Singer Andy Lau accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge
Singer Andy Lau accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge
Wang Zhenyao*

BEIJING — The Ice Bucket Challenge has swept China's social networks, attracting a wide range of curiosity and media attention. More than 70 celebrities have joined in on the online challenge relay, including entrepreneurs such as Jun Lei, founder of Xiaomi Tech, one of China's largest technology companies, Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, one of the country's major web services firms, as well as Chinese stars such as the actress from the Oscar-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Ziyi Zhang, and singer Andy Lau.

So is this "ice bucket charity" movement just hype drummed up by a small bunch of celebrities, or it is a new door that will lead to the opening-up of sustainable philanthropic work?

I personally believe that through the celebrity effect this movement is opening a new type of charity model in today's social networking era. Its greatest significance is that the charity work steps down from the altar of seriousness and becomes accessible for the general public. It highlights the attention to vulnerable groups and enlarges charitable donations.

Within just a few days, through the media focus on celebrities the public’s awareness and knowledge of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare disease, was promoted far more than it has ever been.

In addition, the campaign has brought along a more relaxed atmosphere as well as new ideas for China’s charitable work. Before this, Chinese people had always thought that charity can only be carried out in a serious way.

Power in small sums

Too often, when talking about donations, the focus would be about the openness and transparency of the charitable organization, as well as its management. Repeated questions about the rectitude of philanthropic organizations' operations, organization and governance have made society reticent about participating in charity campaigns.

Actress Ziyi Zhang accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge and nominates Sophie Marceau

By making giving an online gimmick of fun and crowdfunding, driven mostly by small sums of money, the ice bucket challenge has helped to remove the psychological burden on celebrities and charitable organizations.

In the past, when a Chinese public figure donated a lot of money he would be criticized, either for showing off his wealth, or if he gave too little, for being stingy. Now, we see how pouring a bucket of water or donating $100 can also make a difference.

Still, even if celebrity participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge is raising people’s awareness of ALS, there's the risk that the fundamental meaning of philanthropy will be lost if the movement remains little more than online comedy.

Seeing famous expand=1] people involved arouses attention at only the first level. The second level would be the encouragement of more of the public toward other charity action; while the third level is promoting society and the government in establishing together a long-term mechanism for assisting vulnerable groups.

There is no harm if the rich and famous bring attention, by hype or sensationalism, to the plight of disadvantaged groups of patients with rare diseases. But even more important now is that China introduce and learn from advanced medical technology abroad and set up a better social security system for these patients.

The latest highlight is that Mao Qun'an, the spokesman of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, was also named to participate in the campaign and had donated in his own name. With government officials’ participation, this campaign may truly help lead China’s philanthropy to a better place.

(As told to Caixin"s Sun Wenjing)

*Wang Zhenyao is the director of China Philanthropy Research Institute at the Beijing Normal University

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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