曾两年连续以巨额现金捐赠被列为“中国首善”的腾讯创始人之一陈一丹，2013 年从腾讯首席行政官卸任后，以公益慈善和教育为志业。2022 年 5 月，CAPS 联合创始人兼主席陈启宗与陈一丹进行了一次线上对话，希望了解他多年投身公益慈善事业的心得以及他对促进教育事业发展的理解。
Tencent founder Charles CHEN Yidan is recognized as one of China’s most charitable men. Since stepping down from his role as Tencent’s Chief Administrative Officer in 2013, he has been pursuing his goal of supporting education through a variety of philanthropic initiatives. In May 2022, CAPS Co-Founder and Chairman Ronnie C. Chan had a conversation with Charles to learn about his philanthropy and his understanding of how to promote education development.
陈启宗：我是亚洲公益事业研究中心（CAPS）的主席，非常欢迎陈一丹先生今天和我们交流。本次交流目的是用于 CAPS 正在开展的一项聚焦中国大陆地区的研究报告《中国社会公益慈善指南》。今天非常荣幸请到腾讯主要创始人之一陈一丹博士接受访谈。我们知道，一丹几年前退休后，基本上所有时间都放在慈善事业上。我想先问一丹，你们这一代人很有意思，很多都是出生时并不富裕，但却又成了世界最成功的企业家、创始人之一。关于财富，你怎么看？用来干什么？
Ronnie C. Chan: I am the Chairman of CAPS, and I am very pleased to welcome Mr. Charles CHEN Yidan to speak with us today. The purpose of today’s interview is for an ongoing CAPS study focused on mainland China, the China Issue Guide series. Today we are honored to interview Mr. Chen Yidan, one of the core founders of Tencent. We know that Mr. Chen retired a few years ago and now spends all of his time on philanthropy. I’d like to start by asking, it’s interesting that many of your generation were not born wealthy, yet have become some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world. What do you think of the wealth you have generated?
Charles CHEN Yidan: Thank you, Ronnie. We are the generation that grew up during the period of Reform and Opening-up, so whether we grew up in the city or in the countryside, we were basically well provided. We had sufficient food and clothing as well as a sense of security, it was all going well for us. Several decades ago, although the country’s economic development was relatively weak, we saw development and prosperity improve day by day. We were lucky that we were situated in this era of reform, all the way from school to work. The roaring economy, the many opportunities, and the fact that we were in the internet business connected us with the rest of the world. All these allowed us to keep learning and growing. This is how our generation was minted.
As for my perspective on money, it provides an opportunity to do something for society. People’s positive actions beget a cycle of positivity in the society. I grew up in Shenzhen [Special Economic Zone] and witnessed how the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals donated to disaster relief in the flooded areas of China at a young age. Everyone, entrepreneurs and citizens, would donate and help. This legacy is very important. In the Chinese cultural tradition, good deeds will be rewarded. Or from the Buddhist point of view, whether it’s a gift of material things, a gift of the dharma (truth), or even a gift of fearlessness, those are all rooted in human nature.
Ronnie C. Chan: So why philanthropy? What have been the biggest learnings you have had personally from it?
Charles CHEN Yidan: The concept of charity is rooted in traditional Chinese culture. I think the seed of charity is planted in everyone’s heart. We just do what we can. For me, doing charity is a very natural thing. Luckily these years I could focus on doing charity full-time.
More than a decade ago, I participated in launching the first charity fund for Chinese internet companies in 2007. From this experience, I have three points to share: First, social pain points are the starting point of philanthropy. The social sector has many pain points, my idea is to see problems as needs to be solved. Similar to Chinese medicine practitioners when they say, Tong Ze Bu Tong, Tong Ze Bu Tong.
Secondly, the development of philanthropy can utilize the development of technology and social giving platforms. After so many years of hard work, everyone can now participate in giving. The next step is to strengthen transparency and multi-stakeholder participation to foster a robust philanthropic ecology—this is what we are doing continuously and is also the consensus of the sector.
Third, doing philanthropy is actually about addressing the root of the problem. We need to understand the root cause in order to fundamentally solve the issue. Through philanthropy, I gradually realized that whether you are improving conditions around the problem, promoting the development of technology, or cultivating the goodness of people, it ultimately comes back to people. And education is all about people.
陈启宗：在聊你个人公益事业前，我想聊一下腾讯。你们发起基金会是 2007 年，当时腾讯成立不到 10 年，也不是规模最大的时候，你们几位主要创始人当时是经过怎样的考虑决定成立基金会的？
Ronnie C. Chan: Before we talk more about your philanthropy, I’d like to talk about Tencent. You launched Tencent Foundation 2007 when Tencent was less than 10 years old, why did Tencent choose to launch this philanthropic arm at that time?
陈一丹：我们 2004 年上市之后，有全面地去看这家企业的发展，而公益慈善是其中的一个方面。到了 2006 、2007 年，内地对于私人参与公益慈善的环境逐渐向好，加上我们也在思考如何创造机会回馈社会和用户，同时作为上市企业履行社会责任，于是我们几个很快就达成共识，董事会也都非常赞同，觉得这是一个走长远的企业应该去做的。
Charles CHEN Yidan: After Tencent went public in 2004, we did a comprehensive review of the development of the company. Philanthropy was one of the aspects. At the time (in 2006 and 2007), we questioned how we could create opportunities to give back to the community, as well as to fulfill our social responsibility as a listed company. Together with the Board of Directors we agreed that [establishment of Tencent Foundation] was something a long-term enterprise should do.
At first, our vision was simply to allocate a portion of the company’s profits to the foundation annually to form a long-term mechanism. During the process, we learned a lot. One was how to establish a foundation in China and become the first corporate foundation in the internet sector. Second was to learn about establishing charitable organizations at home and abroad. I must say, at the time, the leading consideration was to ensure we could align and utilize Tencent’s strengths. Therefore, as an internet company, naturally we established a public-facing Tencent charity platform.
We saw the growth of public donations reach RMB100 million, RMB 1 billion, and then dozens of billion, as Tencent’s charity platform matured. I truly value the number of people involved in social giving, more than the donation amount itself. Empowering internet users to become the protagonists of philanthropy is crucial. The influence of a single person is extremely limited, but collectively we can increase the donation amount as well as raising awareness of social issues and governance of philanthropic projects. What I value is how everyone at all levels can participate in philanthropy and the sheer influence of this level of participation.
Ronnie C. Chan: Excellent. No wonder you, deservingly, are known as the ‘Father of Internet Philanthropy’. It’s very respectable that you were able to inject such a philosophy into Tencent before you retired. Before you set up your personal foundation, you were involved in many philanthropic undertakings, for example, you founded Wuhan College. Why focus on education? What problems do you hope to solve for the society?
陈一丹：关注教育有理性的原因，也有感性的原因。感性的原因和自己从小生长环境有关，我们都是得益于教育而成长起来的。教育对我们的影响实在是太大了。我的祖母是一个文盲，但她独立把我父亲抚养成了村里的第一个大学生。大家经常说教育会带来命运的改变或是物质生活的改变，这是实实在在存在的。但是家庭教育对于一个人对幸福、对价值观的影响，是无限的。我的祖母 98 岁去世的，但每次想起她，我总觉得很有力量。
Charles CHEN Yidan: [For me] there are both rational and emotional reasons to care about education. Emotionally, it has to do with the environment we grew up in: we all benefitted from education. My grandmother was illiterate. She was able to independently raise my father to be our village’s first college student. As one says, education can change one’s destiny or bring a change in the standard of living. The impact of family education on a person’s happiness and values is infinite. My grandmother died at the age of 98, but every time I think of her, I always feel empowered by her unconditional love.
On a rational level, education is a very complex system, involving parents, students, policy makers, and more. The complexity of this important yet slow-moving system requires one to invest more effort and time into it. Therefore, I am always looking for ways to support educational projects. Some things are done by coincidence, while some are actively thought and explored by me. Wuhan College was more like the former. Philanthropic giving for higher education ignited my interest and reminded me of China’s forefathers and their commitments to university education. After I retired, I continued to invest a lot of energy in this project, including the process of [helping Wuhan College] move from being an independent college to a private university. After the experience with Wuhan College, I was very willing to support the founding of West Lake University as well.
The other kind [of philanthropy] is the one I take the initiative to do so, such as the Yidan Prize. My intention is to encourage the advocacy of human understanding and contribution, and that begins with education. To advance the cause of global education, it must be based on outcomes that are sharable and replicable. To recognize the outstanding educational contributions of individuals, we set up a globally representative Advisory Committee to discuss the criteria that adhere to four main pillars: future-oriented, innovative, transformative, and sustainable.
Ronnie C. Chan: If you could go back to the beginning and do it all over again, what would you do differently? Or do you think the last eight years have mostly gone well? And where do you plan to go next?
Charles CHEN Yidan: I am grateful for everything , so I don’t really look back or want to change it. Because the decisions made at that time were based on the level of ability, resources, and aspirations. They were done with good intent so I don’t have any desire to change anything.
Moving forward, I think we still have to continue to put our energy and resources into the construction of the mechanism to maximize its impact and sustainability. My ethos is, as long as [we are] consistent and persistent in promoting causes we care about then we grow [as a society], it is not always about the specific outcomes.
Ronnie C. Chan: I have known Charles for so many years, he has an excellent mentality, and a wise view of himself, his family, his society, his country, and humanity. He is not only very successful in business, but also in philanthropy, especially in the field of education, and we at CAPS look forward to your continued success. Once again, thank you, for speaking with us and sharing your journey in philanthropy with us, which I believe will have a very positive effect on people who come after you.
 This is an expression derived from a concept in traditional Chinese medicine, “Pain comes and goes with obstruction” (literal translation), describing the relationship between pain points and healing through the flow of Qi and blood. This might be thought of as, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”