Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Good Intentions, Misguided Reaction

If you've become rich and possibly famous and you want to give back to your alma mater, which one do you give it to? The university you attended in your home country or the one you studied in overseas?

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.


USFguy said...

As an american born chinese and an fellow entrepreneur, i commend you for your actions. You are doing the right thing, especially using some of that money in conjunction with the chinese goverment to educate the next generation of Chinese leaders. Great job.

ks said...

why not take the middle road. since both institutions have nurtured him to success i feel both deserve 50% of the donation.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about how involved with technology our daily lives have become. Reading this post makes me think back to that discussion we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as memory becomes less expensive, the possibility of copying our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could see in my lifetime.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://cryst4lxbands.sosblog.com/-b/Will-the-R4-or-R4i-work-b1-p2.htm]R4[/url] DS FFBrows)