Dr. Giovanni B. Andornino is a tenured Assistant Professor of International Relations of East Asia at the Department of Culture, Politics and Society of the University of Turin, where he heads the TOChina Hub, coordinating research, advanced training and track 1.5 networking with China in partnership with ESCP Europe. He is a part-time Professor at the European University Institute (Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies), Vice President of the Torino World Affairs Institute, responsible over the Global China Program, and Director of the ChinaMed Business Program at Peking University. Dr. Andornino is Editor of OrizzonteCina, the only scientific quarterly journal published in Italian language on China’s politics, foreign policy and political economy. He will stay at EURICS from 15th of January to 15th of April 2020.
Red philanthropy: strategies of legitimisation and networked corporatism in China’s nonprofit ecosystem
During my stay at EURICS, I plan to focus my research on the relationship between private, non-corporate Chinese philanthropists and the Party-State. While the notion of charity is embedded in the ethical premises of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, China’s charitable tradition stagnated under Mao’s rule and only recently has a secular practice of philanthropy emerged as a kind of giving that would lead to a more sustainable improvement of public life. I intend to investigate the rationale behind large-scale individual philanthropy in China, which I currently plan to conceptualise as a particular instance of networked corporatism. Leaving aside moral premises that are naturally idiosyncratic, my hypothesis is that wealthy entrepreneurs and families in China pursue a similar strategy of legitimisation on three separate but interlocking levels. First, within the fundamental political realm, in recognition of the octroyé nature of their success in business, they allow their philanthropic agendas to be structured by government priorities and thus opt to become decentralised agents of China’s modernisation. Second, at the societal level, they target local needs in an attempt to legitimise their increasing informal power by maximising popular goodwill toward the donor and his/her kin. Finally, a cultural dimension comes into play to the extent that Chinese philanthropists are influenced by a consolidated global trend that sees the very rich - both in the West, as well as within the Chinese cultural koiné (e.g. Hong Kong) - commit ample resources to join the exclusive ranks of a "cosmopolitan ethical élite" of ultra-high networked individuals who generate both material (e.g. social investment), as well as intangible value through philanthropy.