Buffett, Gates talk charity with China’s rich

Associated Press

BEIJING — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said a meeting about charity he attended Wednesday with Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and dozens of China’s super rich was “a tremendous success,” despite earlier concerns that the country’s newly minted millionaires would be pressured to give up their fortunes.

“Our hopes for this meeting were to learn about giving in China, and share our own views,” Buffett said in a news release from him and Gates late Wednesday. “We had a terrific exchange of views, and learned a great deal about the good work that is already under way.”

Some reports had said some invitees to the private dinner in Beijing were reluctant to attend because they did not want to be pressured.

Because of that concern, Gates and Buffett, who have campaigned to persuade American billionaires to give most of their fortunes to charity, issued a letter earlier this month saying they wouldn’t be pushing anyone to give up their fortunes but wanted to promote philanthropy.

The private dinner, in a mansion on the edge of Beijing modeled after the baroque 17th century Chateau de Maisons-Laffitte in France, drew 50 business and philanthropy leaders for a 90-minute discussion, the news release said.

“At Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates’ request, the guest list will not be made public, in deference to the privacy of their guests,” the release said.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said Wednesday that Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, chairman and chief executive of property developer SOHO China, and Niu Gensheng, founder of Mengniu Dairy, were among the invitees.

Veteran actor Jet Li and tycoon Wang Chuanfu, who owns automaker BYD Co., were also among those likely to attend, the China Daily paper said.

There are at least 875,000 U.S.-dollar millionaires in China, according to Shanghai-based analyst Rupert Hoogewerf, who studies China’s wealthy and compiles the country’s equivalent of the Forbes list. But over the past decade, the distribution of wealth has grown increasingly uneven — incomes averaged just $3,600 last year.