Date
24 January 2018
Alibaba founder Jack Ma has announced that his group will launch a 10 billion yuan fund to support China's ambitious poverty alleviation campaign. Photo: alibabanews.com
Alibaba founder Jack Ma has announced that his group will launch a 10 billion yuan fund to support China's ambitious poverty alleviation campaign. Photo: alibabanews.com

China’s internet giants do their bit for poverty alleviation

During the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress in October, President Xi Jinping stressed that the government will take targeted measures for poverty alleviation.

The Chinese leader didn’t go into details, but his call was soon answered by some of nation’s leading companies and billionaire tycoons. For example, top internet giants Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com all came up with their own version of poverty alleviation measures.

Tencent was the first mover. On Nov. 19, the tech firm signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Yan’an municipal government in Gansu province.

The ceremony was attended by founder Pony Ma himself. The internet behemoth said it intends to utilize cloud, big data and smart city technologies to lift the city out of poverty.

It’s quite rare that a local government has signed such strategic cooperation deals with a private firm. Yan’an enjoys a special status in China. The official Xinhua News Agency described it as “a widely-known birthplace of Chinese revolution, and the Yan’an spirit is always inspiring Chinese one generation after another,” underlying the significance of the cooperation.

Shortly after, JD.com, the nation’s second-largest online retailer, announced on Nov. 24 that its billionaire founder Richard Liu was appointed honorary head of Pingshitou village, which is 300 kilometers south of Beijing.

Liu plans to gather the village’s produce — such as dates and watermelons — and sell them through JD.com. Liu has set a goal to raise income levels of local villagers ten-fold within five years.

Then, Alibaba founder Jack Ma announced on Dec. 1 that the e-commerce titan will launch a 10 billion yuan fund to support China’s ambitious poverty alleviation campaign. Ma would serve as the fund chairman, while other senior executives such as Joseph Tsai, Peng Lei, Zhang Yong and others will be vice chairmen.

All of its business departments such as Taobao, Cainiao Logistics and Ant Financial Services are required to set their own specific targets for poverty alleviation, which has now been made into one of elements for assessment of annual key performance indicators (KPIs).

It’s hard to say which company’s approach is better. Given the diverse degree of poverty in different parts of China, perhaps employing more than one poverty alleviation strategy is the best approach.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 11

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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