New laws in Asia have a significant impact on charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), hindering or encouraging donations and the works they sponsor. Shapiro, head of the Center for Asian Philanthropy and Society, explores the gap between government support for projects complementing official agendas and the crackdown on efforts to challenge them. India now directs firms to donate 2% of net profits to officially endorsed charities, yet it also aims to restrict advocacy by foreign non-profits. China’s new laws increase accountability in the philanthropic sector and expand government contracts for social delivery organizations (SDOs), but they do so while cementing official oversight of charitable activities. In this third chapter of Pragmatic Philanthropy, Shapiro reveals changes to the legal landscapes of the region and explains their potential effects on Asian giving.
Asia isn’t the only place to experience a trust deficit. Trust has fallen to discouraging levels around the world, according to the 2017 “Trust Barometer” by Edelman, a public relations firm. Titling its recent report “An Implosion of Trust,” Edelman writes that trust in NGOs in the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and the UK fell to less than 50 percent, its lowest level since 2001, when the survey was first conducted. In Asia, trust for civil society has been low for many years, and it has recently fallen further in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia.
But there are bright spots. Trust levels have actually increased in India, China, and Hong Kong, for reasons that may be duplicated elsewhere. These economies have taken steps to clarify the murky landscape in which private social investment takes place, a problem detailed in Chapter 4. China, especially, has received media attention over new laws affecting international NGOs. Though China and India are at the forefront of changing the environment for charitable action, other nations are also amending laws aimed at the giving and receiving of funds. Some changes reflect a desire on the part of governments to mitigate the trust deficit and allow for greater transparency and accountability. Some have to do with entirely different agendas.
Changes in the legal system affecting philanthropy broadly fall into three categories. The first is an effort by governments to discern between advocacy and social delivery organizations, with the goal of permitting the latter while hindering the former, especially when such groups advocate for policies counter to the government’s agenda. Within those regulations lies a subordinate set aimed at curtailing foreign funding oriented toward changes in individual rights, freedom of speech, and political engagement. The governments in question find this outside involvement an infringement of authority, and they have little or no interest in permitting foreign organizations to meddle with official aims. The second category includes policies aimed at increasing local philanthropy, particularly when it is in line with the government’s agenda, and the third set is of laws endeavoring to create more transparency and accountability. On this last count, many governments are aware that if the trust deficit can be mitigated, increased local giving could result. This chapter examines the policies governing civil society in each of these three categories.
The definition of civil society is difficult to pin down. In fact, in 2001, the BBC stated, “The paradox about civil society is that it covers a vast range of activities—yet it’s very hard to define.” In an attempt to address this difficulty, the BBC produced a 12-part series called What Is Civil Society? Footnote 1 Despite this noble effort, the definition still evades us, although we can all agree that facets, goals, and operating norms of civil society differ across cultural contexts. The details give context to the current legal changes in Asia.
Civil society is often thought of as the voice and actions of the people, instead of that of companies and of the government. In the Western context, it is considered a basic tenet of a pluralistic society. While not necessarily the case, the term is often used as a contrarian voice against the government and the private sector. Civil society tends to focus on human rights and social justice. Civic engagement is a different story. Civic engagement is the way in which ordinary people can participate in helping their communities and countries, and the term does not carry an antagonistic connotation. Although civic engagement can utilize both political and non-political processes, it is not about pluralism as an endgame but of the human tendency to help one another. But the distinction can become complex. Many efforts start off as engagement only to become advocacy, and vice-versa. It often becomes clear to those trying to solve a problem that systemic change must include the government, and sometimes that implies the government must also change. Over the past decade, we can see a trend in Asia to channel energy into civic engagement while trying, at times with great conviction, to curtail the growth of civil society. As Simon Andrew Avenell writes when talking about the creation of the NPO (nonprofit organization) law in Japan, “Never did they [civil society pioneers] imagine that their model would become an endorsement of the state’s mellifluous vision of civil society.”Footnote 2
A good portion of recent regulatory change aims at tamping down organizations that promote a political agenda contrary to the government’s goals. Such regulations stem from the perception that many political agendas are funded by foreign actors; while it is difficult to determine precise figures, that might be partially true. Within Asian nations, donors might have little interest in challenging the system. In Chapter 4, we note that many Asian philanthropists have become wealthy under the status quo and therefore see no reward from agitating for social and political change (except in extreme cases such as the People Power revolution in the Philippines). In fact, the whole lobbying industry is almost absent in Asian nations as corporate leaders choose to either go along with the government or find ways to work around existing statutes. One cannot equate the government-friendly Keidanren in Japan or the Federation of Korean Industries in Korea with the Business Roundtable or the offices that line K Street in Washington D.C.
Asia is not unique in grappling with the intent of an organization and thus calibrating government support based on perceptions of the advocacy aims of an organization. The United States put tax policies in place in 1913 to delineate between organizations with strictly social missions and those that include in their mandate lobbying for policy change. Despite these laws being on the books for more than a century, there are frequent examples of organizations crossing the line between social delivery and advocacy. In recent years, with the rise of social enterprises, a new gray area between profit and nonprofit has emerged that challenges historical thinking and practice about organizations delivering social good.
And as in other parts of the world, Asia sees friction at the intersection between nonprofit and religious organizations. In most every country where there are tax-exemption policies, religious organizations enjoy these benefits. Normally, their work—such as help for the needy—passes without incident. Sometimes, however, the goals of the organization counter those of the government, as seen in Indonesia in July of 2017, when President Joko Widodo signed a decree making it easier to disband religious or civil society organizations. The decree was broadly seen as being aimed at Hizbut Tahrir, a conservative Islamic organization at odds with the national constitution and pluralist state ideology. Even as many understood why the Jokowi administration would seek to quash Hizbut Tahrir’s efforts, human rights groups swiftly expressed concern that the law could be used to disband any politically inconvenient civil society groups, regardless of their religious persuasion. “This threatens the legal rights of all NGOs in Indonesia,” said Usman Hamid, the Indonesia director of Amnesty International.Footnote 3
Another religious organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been disbanded three times in its history, while the Congress party ruled India. The RSS, considered to be the largest nonprofit in the world with an estimated 2.5 million members, is a Hindu nationalist organization with the motto of “Selfless Service to the Motherland.” Now in favor with the Modi government , the RSS has SeeSeeRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) expanded efforts to obstruct the work of nonprofits aligned with other religions.
The primary tool of hindering religious and political voices has been a crackdown on organizations receiving funding from abroad. In the past few years, the two Asian countries that have been most active in endeavoring to control foreign funding of NGOs are China and India. In 2010, India passed the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), prohibiting the use of overseas funds for “activities detrimental to the national interest.” Though the law was initially seen as a bureaucratic burden, entailing significant financial reporting and documentation, the effects have recently become more severe. Under the Modi government, elected in 2014, FCRA requirements of filing annual returns have been used to cancel registrations of more than 10,000 organizations while denying renewals of an additional 1300 found to have filed incorrect information.Footnote 4 The reporting requirements imposed through FCRA are so onerous that many nonprofit organizations forego foreign contributions altogether.
Others closed their doors. The FCRA legislation shut down Colorado-based nonprofit Compassion International, which had been operating in India for 48 years to provide educational, health, and nutritional services for children. According to The New York Times, it has repeatedly ranked as India’s largest single foreign donor, transferring around $45 million a year.Footnote 5 But FCRA regulations accused it of funding religious conversions, a charge it denies. FCRA rules were also instrumental in shuttering the India operations of the Open Society Foundation and of Greenpeace.
Among the most contentious moves has been the decision to cancel the license of PHFI ( Public Health Foundation of India). PHFI has received a significant portion of its support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide its health-related services. Some commentators have said that the decision was based on PHFI’s and the Gates Foundation’s anti-smoking programs, while others have cited the relationship between the Gates Foundation, GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance), and various international pharmaceutical firms. The PHFI has SeeSeePublic Health Foundation of India (PHFI) filed an appeal, and as of now is waiting to hear from the government about reinstatement of its license.
China’s new international NGO (INGO) law goes beyond funding. The goal of the law is to allow for greater management and control of foreign NGOs and foundations operating in China. The official language says, “This law is designed to standardize and guide all activities carried out by overseas NGOs within China, and protect their rights and interests, while promoting communication and cooperation.”Footnote 6
In practice, the new system creates the need for dual registration for overseas NGOs (this includes nonprofit organizations; think tanks; and social organizations, including associations). They need to satisfy two criteria for legal status in China. First, they must have an appropriate government department act as a professional supervising unit, and second, they must register with public security authorities. The new law requires the NGOs to find a sponsor before registering, making this key to forming a legal entity.
The burden is placed on the sponsor to decide if the international NGO is engaged in appropriate activities and to oversee their activities. This poses a formidable hurdle, especially for those organizations relatively new to China or engaged in any activity a local partner might consider risky. Foreign organizations approved to date have had long-standing relationships with local partners, with a somewhat even split of organizations involved with trade and the others focused on more humanitarian pursuits. In the first six months of the law, just 154 organizations had been approved: 71 were trade-elated, such as Cotton US and the France Chamber of Commerce, and many counted for several listings; World Vision, a humanitarian organization, was listed six times with approval from the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Tianjin, and Yunnan. The Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, both organizations facing challenges in India, were approved in China during the first round.Footnote 7
There has been a great deal of international media attention regarding China’s new INGO law . Finding a supervising unit might not be easy. There is very little upside, and potential significant downside, for the Chinese supervisor, though the burden may be eased when the work of a particular NGO aligns with the tasks of its governmental supervisory body. A further burden comes from the requirement that no INGO can be involved with political activities, a problem when the interpretation of what constitutes political activities can vary across time and disciplines. For example, for many years, the number of Chinese with HIV/AIDS was listed as a state secret, making outreach in that area politically difficult. And if the NGO’s work is multidisciplinary in nature, and does not fall clearly into a subject area (environment, health, education), it may be difficult to find a supervisory unit from a sector-specific ministry. Lastly, the role of the Ministry of Public Security is central to the new law but it is not clear how or which relevant MPS officials will be trained to deal with these new responsibilities. As in the case with many of China’s laws, the specifics regarding implementation will be ironed out over time. In the meantime, with more than 7000 foreign NGOs in China, there are many NGO leaders who do not know if they will be able to continue with their work.
Increasing Local Philanthropy
This book is entitled Pragmatic Philanthropy. One of the clearest trends we witness across Asia is that of Asian donors providing philanthropic support in line with, and at times in partnership with, the government’s agenda for addressing social challenges. This is a common trend. For many years, as wealth increased, a number of governments did not seem to grasp why private money might be helpful. They grappled with the notion that by allowing funding for education, health care, or disaster relief, there might be a perception that government itself wasn’t doing its job by dealing with these issues directly. In a number of meetings I’ve had with government officials, they questioned why philanthropy was necessary when it was the government’s role to provide education and health care. This was especially the case in China.
More recently, however, several governments in Asia, including China, have come to the realization that Asian philanthropists tend to want to support government initiatives and will make donations that are aligned with government goals. In our work, we see how this trend paves the way for governments to craft laws encouraging local giving.
Official support for the sector can be seen most clearly in the creation of tax subsidies for the giving and receiving of philanthropy. Here, Singapore is a dramatic outlier. In order to spur local giving, Singapore raised its tax subsidy to 250 percent in 2011, and in some cases provides matching funds. In 2015, the tax subsidy was increased to 300 percent until the end of 2018 to celebrate the island state’s jubilee year. The Singapore Straits Times quoted Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam who said: “On the occasion of our jubilee year, we should take the opportunity to engage in giving to the causes that we feel matter to us as Singaporeans.”Footnote 8
The very context of giving must be seen through an Asian lens. In their book Charitable Giving and Tax Policy, Gabrielle Fack and Camille Landais look at the relationship between philanthropy and tax policies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Denmark.Footnote 9 They use tax policies as a way to answer three questions: why do people give, what constitutes a public good, and does enforcement of tax policies affect people’s behavior or is it enough to have the rules on the books? But these questions carry significant Western assumptions, as the authors note it is difficult to assign a monetary value to the “warm glow” generated by a philanthropic contribution. In Asia, while the altruistic aspect of providing a contribution does exist, so does the notion of the benefit of enhancing relationships with business partners and with government, motivations missing from the Fack and Landais calculation. The second question can be seen as tautological in the Asian context; a public good is what the government determines is a public good. This may be explicit, such as the verbiage and directions in China’s new charity law, or it can be implicit. When Narendra Modi championed the need for more toilets in India, there was a flurry of philanthropists building toilets throughout the country. Now some people say that there are not only enough toilets but that many of them are being used as storage facilities, as there was little if any concurrent sanitation education about the use, behavior, and benefits associated with toilets. Lastly, while the question of enforcement is relevant in the Asian context, the signaling aspect of government policy is again very important. Governments use policies to signal what matters and what does not, or what is encouraged and what is discouraged. In countries with weak civil society and strong governments, private individuals and companies become adept at reading between the lines of the actual policy itself. Singapore provides another good example. Fiscal incentives can be helpful, but given Singapore’s low tax rate, subsidies do as much by providing a powerful message that the government encourages its citizens to give to local causes. These tax breaks are only available when a tax-paying Singaporean gives to certified nonprofit organizations doing work in Singapore, in activities approved by the government. Such a policy would be unthinkable in America, but not in China or the Philippines.
Of the 15 economies in the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society’s Doing Good Index survey, only Indonesia does not grant any tax benefit to individuals and all of them provide some sort of tax subsidies to corporations. In practice, fewer countries make full use of their policies, because a government can really only offer a tax break when it is effectively collecting taxes. As many countries in Asia struggle with tax collection, offering tax subsidies may sound good on paper but might not amount to much in real monetary value.
It is also true that although tax relief may literally be part of the law, it can be very difficult for either the donor or the tax-exempt organization to claim these benefits. The process by which one gets tax-exempt status in China is particularly onerous. The Harvard Kennedy School report states that as of 2015, only 157 organizations had been granted tax-exempt status.Footnote 10 In our Doing Good Index, the time and expense of registering as a tax-exempt organization is part of our calculation of what enables or hinders a philanthropic ecosystem.
There are other ways to incent local giving, allowing a government to endorse citizens providing private support for local and national challenges. One of the most popular recent innovations is a national giving day, week, or month. In 2015, the Japanese government approved a consortium endeavoring to increase local philanthropic giving through a “Giving December” program to “reflect on the importance and roles of donations, increase interest in donating, and create an opportunity for action.”
In China, the new charity law includes establishment of an official “charity week” and day. Many Internet companies, especially, have played up Charity Day. During its second annual Charity Day event last September, Internet giant Tencent raised US$44 million as 6.8 million users donated to an assortment of charities.Footnote 11 South Korea hosts a Giving Big Festival, and Thailand promotes Volunteer Day. In 2017, Singapore, through its quasi-governmental partners the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre and the National Council of Social Service, has organized Singapore Cares, a multifaceted program designed to “support the goodwill of Singaporeans and guide them to better help those in need.”
India is trying a variety of policy and regulatory initiatives to change the local philanthropic landscape. In the most progressive policy along these lines, India has made corporate social responsibility mandatory, becoming the first country in the world to require such spending. From 2015 on, companies with annual revenues of INR10 billion (about US$150 million) must give 2 percent after-tax or net profit to charity. The impact on the charitable sector is immense. Critics charge that, like the toilet imperative, the policy was put into practice without the programmatic and infrastructure programs necessary to deal with such a large influx of funds. While this is certainly true, there is also no doubt that the new law has elevated corporate social responsibility (CSR) beyond the periphery to the center of business decisions, placing it very much into the minds and activities of executives and directors. Two years into the new law, companies are still scrambling to gain expertise. The few with previous experience in CSR are in great demand. As with China’s new charity law, it will take years to see the real impact of such a sweeping policy or to gauge how much it moves the needle in addressing massive social inequities and challenges.
With the Indian CSR legislation as an outlier and while putting in place tax subsidies and establishing giving days demonstrate a government’s interest in promoting local giving, most probably the best way to increase philanthropy is by addressing the trust deficit. Regulations can help improve transparency and accountability in the sector. Regulatory change affecting both the supply and demand for philanthropy has been taking place in a number of Asian countries in recent years.
In our recent study, the Doing Good Index, we asked representatives from 15 Asian economies if there had been a front-page headline regarding a scandal involving a nonprofit organization in the last two years. Ten of them answered that there had been and several of the remainder said that while a scandal had not taken place in the last two years, fundraising is still affected by scandals that took place prior to this date.
When such scandals take place, the government reacts. As noted in other chapters, a pivotal moment in China’s social sector was the Guo Meimei episode, when Ms. Guo, an employee of an organization affiliated with the Red Cross in China posted pictures of herself with two luxury cars. While the Chinese government had been formulating a charity law for some time, the policymaking process took on additional impetus during and after Ms. Guo’s post and the public outrage and dismay that ensued.
The Chinese government’s opinion about philanthropy and nonprofit organizations has changed dramatically since 2008, often referred to as the “first year of civil society in China.” In 2008, responding to reports on social media, individuals and organizations flocked to Sichuan province to help with relief efforts after a massive earthquake. When they arrived, government officials did not know how to engage with them and treated both local and foreign NGOs with wariness and suspicion, turning most of them away. By the time of the Ya’an earthquake five years later, the government had changed its policy and its reactions significantly. Government officials realized that private money could be channeled into causes and problems identified by the government. NGOs were welcomed to help as long as they registered with the local coordinating office.Footnote 12 According to Ze Tao of the China Foundation Center in Beijing, in the last five years 700 new foundations have been set up each year in China.Footnote 13 The new charity law in China is meant to accelerate this trend. A recent Harvard Kennedy School report notes, “The intention of the new legislation is to regulate better the sector and encourage more giving by the wealthy to sectors prioritized by the Chinese government, while restricting giving to non-priority issues.”Footnote 14 The Chinese Community Party has realized that private money can help them achieve their goals and can also be channeled and controlled to a significant extent.
China’s new law is designed to manage domestic Chinese philanthropic and charitable activities, making both more transparent and accountable. The law covers two major areas: governmental oversight and nonprofit support and management. It does not include changes to the tax code regarding subsidies and tax-exempt status, but it is expected that new tax regulations will soon be issued. The charity law also categorizes different types of organizations into charitable organizations, foundations, private non-enterprise units, and social groups. Government oversight has several provisions to increase transparency, including government approval for online fundraising platforms and requirements that financial records and audited reports must be placed on government-designated platforms. The law also stipulates that overhead expenses cannot exceed 10 percent for organizations and foundations and 13 percent for social groups. Included in the law are descriptions of what types of expenses can be included in overhead costs.
The charity law also promises to increase government procurement of services from nonprofit and SDOs. For the most part, government procurement is a useful and constructive process. Government contracts help SDOs by providing sustainable and reliable income streams. They are also important as they legitimize organizations and lend credibility to the sector. The Eden Social Welfare Foundation in Taiwan receives half of its total budget through government contracts to provide services and programs for the disabled. The critique of government procurement is that it can contribute to mission drift and the transition of an SDO from a mission-driven organization to merely being a government contractor. This is more likely to happen when the government does not understand or appreciate the specialty or expertise of an organization and asks it to do reports and projects that keep it busy and funded but not necessarily in the areas it was created to serve.
India has also been endeavoring to increase transparency and accountability. Given the significant amount of additional funding available due to the CSR legislation, increased accountability is a national imperative. The FCRA requirements discussed earlier have had the dual goals of increasing accountability as well as blocking foreign support for causes deemed questionable by the Modi government.
It is not uncommon when a government makes policy in reaction to a scandal or widespread belief of correcting a wrong that the reaction can verge on zealousness. This seemed to be the case when the Indian government announced the Lokpal Act amendment in July 2016. The original intent of the Lokpal Act in 2010–2011 had been to require public servants—that is, government officials—to declare their assets so as to make the accumulation of wealth, and thus of corrupt practices, more difficult. As the years went by and the various parliamentary committees got involved with the bill , an amendment was passed that defined a public servant as anyone sitting on a board of trustees or in the senior management of a nonprofit organization that received foreign contributions exceeding 10 lakh rupees (about US$15,000) or receives one crore rupees (about US$160,000) from an Indian government agency or department in a calendar year. The July 2016 amendment required trustees and senior staff to provide a listing of all assets under his or her name and all family members to the government by the end of August 2016, whereupon the government would release this information to the public. Not surprisingly, this announcement caused widespread alarm verging on panic. It meant that someone who was doing the right thing by sitting on a nonprofit board would be subjected to having all his or her assets and that of his/her family made public. And it was retroactive three years! One nonprofit research institution I know about was supposed to have new board elections in mid-August. All of the proposed candidates withdrew from consideration. After appeals to the government and to Prime Minister Modi himself, the deadline was extended to December 31, 2016, so that lawsuits could be filed. Numerous were. Fortunately, a decision was taken to delay the Lokpal Act indefinitely. While transparency and accountability are important, penalizing well-meaning board members would be quite unconstructive. It is very helpful to have trustees with company and private sector experience on a nonprofit board. These trustees can help with better financial forecasting, accounting, and strategic planning. There should be mechanisms that incent them to spend free time on SDO boards, not penalize them for doing so.
It can also happen that to hold off an overeager government or to compensate for governmental inertia, nonprofit organizations collaborate to create voluntary schemes. The latter situation was the case when a group of voluntary organizations proposed a giving day in Japan, which was then supported by the government and made official.
In the Philippines in 1998, the Department of Finance recommended that only donations to the government’s disaster relief program be made tax deductible as only these contributions could be validated as to how the funds were spent. Six of the largest NGO and foundation umbrella organizations reacted with a proposal to create a self-regulatory mechanism that would ensure the transparency and accountability of organizations that met a strict set of criteria. The Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) was created and received authorization from the government to certify eligible organizations. The PCNC SeeSeePhilippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) has by far the most stringent criteria and vetting process in Asia and perhaps in the world. By 2017, more than 1300 nonprofit organizations and foundations have been certified, and the PCNC has been heralded as a model not only of nonprofit-government collaboration but also of a concerted effort to create a clean and accountable charitable sector.
In 2017, major events shaped the discourse on the governance of civil society in Asia. In China and India new sets of rules are set to influence greatly the evolution of how these two nations develop. The two new laws in China, taken together, show that the Chinese government is endeavoring to increase local philanthropy and NGOs, while discouraging foreign involvement. While there are foreign organizations that have forged the appropriate connections within China who will not be too negatively affected, there is a climate of caution in place that is affecting all. India, as well, is looking inward when it comes to social investments.
In China, civil society is not the only recipient of this cultural ethnocentrism. In recent weeks, the availability of VPNs (virtual private networks), the primary way that one could access international websites, has been shut down. This is all part of Xi Xinping’s pushback against all things “Western.” In fact, when he came to power in 2013, a document known popularly as Document #9 was widely circulated among Communist Party cadres. The document called for the end of seven taboo topics: Western constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society, neoliberalism, the Western concept of press freedom, historical nihilism, and questioning whether China’s system is truly socialist. Within this context, the rules regarding philanthropy and nonprofit organization could be viewed as a small sliver of a larger plan.
Whether that is true or not, the at times uneasy coexistence between the people, the government, and the private sector will continue to experience friction. The charitable sector is especially prone to such friction given the lack of clarity of mandate coupled with the often opaque and questionable motives of individuals and organizations operating within its parameters.
Again this year, two governments are struggling with scandals arising from questionable philanthropic contributions. Deposed Korean President Park Geun-hye is currently on trial for, among other things, soliciting donations to a friend’s foundation in return for political favors. Shinzo Abe in Japan is reeling from donations he and others made to a veterinarian school. It would not be surprising that once these two situations are resolved, the governments in Japan and Korea call for new laws to govern the sector. As discussed at the beginning of the chapter, the Jokowi administration in Indonesia has done just that.
Asia is a continent of extremes. Home to the second, third, and fifth largest economies—China, Japan, and India—Southeast Asia, taken as a whole, is the world’s sixth largest economy. There is incredible wealth in the region, the great preponderance of which has been created in the last 50 years or less. Asia is also a region with immense social challenges. India still struggles with a literacy rate hovering around 75 percent according to the World Bank. In 2017, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network lists only Japan and Korea in the top 50 countries whose aggregate scores show attainment or progress in meeting all of the Sustainable Development Goals.Footnote 15
Beyond these indicators, new challenges arising from the unequal distribution of wealth in a globalized world are creating unrest and volatility throughout the world, and Asia is no exception. Hong Kong, with the highest Gini coefficient in the world, is grappling with discontent about the stronger domination of China and the lack of economic as well as democratic opportunity this is perceived to cause.
Technology has had a multifaceted influence. Millions of eyes see the excess of an unequal world and the fraudulent behavior of corrupt individuals. But technology can also hurt trust in charitable organizations overall; when a Guo Meimei posts damning photos, they go viral within hours, if not minutes.
Given the confluence of greater wealth, stubborn inequity, and the growth of technology, there is no doubt that governments will continue to try to manage social organizations and philanthropy. Officials will enact policies and regulations in line with their long-term goals and in response to short-term crises. Some will help and many will give rise to unforeseen circumstances that, in turn, will provoke further response by governments and by civil society at large.
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Cite this chapter
Shapiro, R.A. (2018). Changing Laws or Taxing Changes: Policies in Flux. In: Pragmatic Philanthropy. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-7119-5_3
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore
Print ISBN: 978-981-10-7118-8
Online ISBN: 978-981-10-7119-5