Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Good Intentions, Misguided Reaction
Zhang Lei (above) chose to do the latter -- all $8,888,888 -- the largest donation ever given to Yale University. It will be used to build a new campus for the Yale School of Management and fund China-related activities.
The 38-year-old entrepreneur established Hillhouse Capital Management in 2005 with some base capital from the university, where he graduated in 2002. Hillhouse Capital Management is a Beijing-based investment fund that manages $2.5 billion. It is named after the street where the Yale school is located.
Zhang wrote that Yale changed his life and taught him about the importance of giving. "Yale has been helping China for more than 100 years. Many Chinese leaders were educated at Yale. But the relationship has been one-way for too long and I want to help change that."
However there is outrage in China that Zhang would donate money to a US university instead of a Chinese one, where he did his undergraduate studies at Renmin University in Beijing.
Some Internet users have even called him a "traitor". "Why does a Chinese donate to another country's development?" asked one, while another demanded, "$8.88 million is a big donation and I think his motherland, China, needs it more than a developed country."
Another said, "The Chinese education system helped you, but Americans have only ever given us trouble. Helping them hurts China. Got it?"
However, others side with Zhang, saying the Chinese education system doesn't deserve any donations because of corruption and large class sizes, leaving students feeling like they didn't learn much.
"Any money you donate in China eventually falls into the pockets of corrupt officials. Donating the money where it will help is wise," said a web user.
What does China's education system give graduates? Uemployment and bogus degrees," said a commentary on the website of China National Radio that urged the public not to be so hasty in criticizing Zhang.
This kind of heated reaction only shows the insecurity of Chinese people who think being a patriot is the only correct thing to do. It also reveals the uneven development of the country, where so many people are still literally dirt poor and illiterate, while others are making millions of dollars after studying abroad.
This huge divide will only fuel more resentment rather than praise of one of their own.