Poverty in China

Alibaba launches US$1.5 billion fund to help fight poverty in China

Jack Ma says commitment to poverty relief was inspired by Deng Xiaoping

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 8:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 9:50pm

Tech giant Alibaba Group on Friday launched a 10 billion yuan (US$1.51 billion) fund to support China’s ambitious poverty alleviation campaign.

At a conference attended by the company’s 36 partners at its headquarters in Hangzhou, executive chairman Jack Ma announced it would set up the Alibaba Poverty Relief Fund, with the money to be donated over the next five years.

The company has set philanthropy as part of its strategic goals and will establish a “supporting coordination system” to push the cause of reducing poverty – including assigning its top executives to lead a specific programme to help farmers.

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China has already lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty after three decades of economic reforms on the mainland and President Xi Jinping has made it a policy priority with a plan to eradicate extreme poverty by 2020.

Poverty in China is defined as having an annual income below 3,000 yuan (US$450) at current prices.

“Our company is perhaps the one that’s put the most serious effort into studying the 19th Communist Party congress documents,” Ma told the conference. “We studied it in order to find an answer to the question: what can we do to implement the spirit of the 19th congress?

“The anti-corruption campaign and poverty alleviation are both idealistic,” he said. “We’ve decided to make our contribution to achieving the goal of wiping out poverty.”

Ma said his commitment to poverty relief had also been inspired by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of the nation’s reform and opening-up.

“Without Deng Xiaoping, there would be no us,” Ma said. “He called on the people who become rich earlier to help others who are still poor. Now that we are rich today, we should fulfil this commitment and help more people get rich.”

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Company executives will be assigned to work on projects including education, poverty relief among women, developing sales of rural products from impoverished regions, and initiatives combining poverty alleviation and environment protection. All of them will have that poverty work included in their performance evaluations.

Ma said all companies within the group would also be given a poverty relief project to handle.

He said he hoped that the fund could help rural Chinese to stay in their hometowns rather than having no choice but to leave their families behind and become migrant workers in the cities.

“I hope farmers won’t have to leave their villages and they can instead become agricultural workers or forestry workers,” he said. “I think they should return to the land ... and develop their business.”

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The Alibaba Foundation, the group’s charity set up in 2011, will contribute to the fund, but most of the money will come from Alibaba’s 36 partners and its employees.

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.