Usually on the blog, I stay away from questions like this one. For students and parents reading the website, I assume that there is already an interest in learning Mandarin Chinese. I usually focus on the how of learning Mandarin Chinese here, not on the why. But something happened this week that demonstrated just how much Chinese society is changing every day.
Today (March 22, 2018) is the Big Give in San Antonio. As part of the Big Give, I am fundraising for a local non-profit, Restore Education. Almost on a whim, I posted my fundraising page to the social media platform WeChat. WeChat is by far the most popular and comprehensive social media platform in Mainland China and I use it to keep in touch with friends in China and all over the world. Within minutes, I got a message from my friend Daniel in China. Daniel is middle-aged, works for the local government and is looking forward to when his son gets married in the near future. We have known each other for over a decade. Daniel asked me a little bit about the non-profit, I told him that they improve educational outcomes for at-risk people. A few minutes after that, Daniel sent me a donation in WeChat (the ability to send money within the app is one of the many wonders of WeChat).
In America, charitable giving is a big part of our culture. The majority of financial support (72%) for American non-profits comes from individuals. About 2% of our GDP goes to charity, in China, however, that number is .1%. When I was living in China, and fundraising for non-profits there, many of my Chinese friends and colleagues were skeptical about charitable giving. They usually expected the government to take care of social problems. It was surprising to me, since I have been living in the US for several years now, to get a donation so quickly. The number of donations from top philanthropists in China tripled from 2010-2016 and I think that that trend is reaching Chinese people who are not billionaires.
Twenty or thirty years ago, China was just the country that manufactured lots of stuff to most Americans. Now China is on the cover of the Economist almost every week. Its citizens are even sending donations to American charities! As the society changes, I believe that it is worth it to get to know the people more. Learning the language is an important step in that direction, so learn Mandarin Chinese!
In case you’re interested, my fundraising page for Restore Education is here. 谢谢！