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Elaine Jeffreys

This chapter looks at the growth of charitable foundations funded by newly rich private entrepreneurs and commercial entertainment and sports celebrities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Foundations provide the basis for elite philanthropy in developed countries such as the United States, but are a new phenomenon in the PRC. The chapter first outlines the recent history of elite philanthropy, and philanthropy more generally in the PRC. It then examines a sample group of non-public foundations established by some of the most ‘rich and famous’ people in China, focusing on the nature of their missions and their founders’ interactions with government, elite politics and the media. It finds that conventional western critiques of elite philanthropy lack explanatory power in the PRC. It is neither the case that government is simply outsourcing welfare provision to ‘unaccountable’ business–celebrity elites nor that elite-funded foundations simply work independently to fill gaps in the government’s provision of public services. Elite philanthropists in the PRC typically operate hand in glove with the government on core social welfare and humanitarian initiatives while mobilizing more limited financial resources and their elite political connections to pursue peripheral independent interests.