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Giovanni Andornino

Université de Turin
Red philanthropy: strategies of legitimisation and networked corporatism in China's nonprofit ecosystem
15 January 2020 -
15 April 2020
Political science

Giovanni Andornino is a specialist in East Asian international relations. He is Assistant Professor at the University of Turin in the Department of Culture, Politics and Society. He is also Professor at the European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Study, and Vice-President of the Institute of World Affairs in Turin where he directs the Global China Programme.

In January 2020, he joins the RFIEA Chinese Studies Program.

Research topics

International relations theory and foreign policy analysis. China's domestic and foreign policy. International relations in Asia and the Pacific. EU/Italy-China relations and China's relations with the Mediterranean region.

Red philanthropy: strategies of legitimisation and networked corporatism in China's nonprofit ecosystem

The continued development of a strong domestic philanthropic sector is one of the most important, though as yet little studied, aspects of China's changing socio-political topography. Having increased six-fold in ten years to over 20 billion euros, charitable giving in the Chinese context has become an entrenched corporate practice as well as a popular course of action for the wealthy, and is also becoming an instrument of China's international influence.

My research focuses on the relationship between private, non-corporate Chinese philanthropists and the Party-State. While the notion of charity is rooted in the ethical premises of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, the Chinese charitable tradition stagnated under Mao's reign, and it is only recently that an age-old practice of philanthropy has emerged as a kind of giving that would lead to a more sustainable improvement in public life. What are the reasons behind large-scale individual philanthropy in China?

My hypothesis is that entrepreneurs and wealthy families in China pursue a similar legitimization strategy on three distinct but interrelated levels. First, in the fundamental political realm, they choose to become decentralized agents of China's modernization. Second, at the societal level, they target local needs in an attempt to legitimize their growing informal power. Finally, a cultural dimension comes into play as Chinese philanthropists are influenced by a consolidated global trend that sees the very rich committing ample resources to join the exclusive ranks of a "cosmopolitan ethical elite".

Contemporary period (1789-…)
Eastern Asia