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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
Donation knows no boundaries
    2017-December-25  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Winton Dong

dht0620@126.com

SUPPORTED by a US$115 million donation from a Chinese couple, Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute announced the launch of a campus-wide neuroscience initiative in the famous American university at a ceremony Dec. 5 this year.

The initiative aims to create a unique environment for interdisciplinary brain research and will focus on the mechanism of human brain, which includes brain research, treatment and development. As part of the initiative, Caltech will also build a US$200 million biosciences complex named in honor of the Chens which will include state-of-the-art facilities and outstanding faculty members.

“By contributing to the research of neuroscience — unlocking the essential mysteries of humankind — I am willing to donate all my money. Because in the act of doing so, I feel happier than I ever have,” Chen said at the ceremony in California.

Chen and Luo founded Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd. in 1999, which became the largest online entertainment developer and publisher in China at that time. The company later transformed into a global private investment company.

In December 2016, Chen made a decision to donate US$115 million to spearhead neuroscience research in Caltech. He also revealed at a conference this March that he would further donate US$100 million annually to support the research. Chen reiterated that scientific donations are without borders, so it is still uncertain whether his future money will be donated to domestic institutes or those in other countries.

Chen’s first donation in this initiative to an American research institute ignited widespread discussion in China, with many criticizing that he should have donated to institutes in his own country. A comment by Rao Yi, president of Life Sciences at Peking University, went viral online. “Tianqiao Chen has made a mistake by funding Caltech instead of a Chinese institute,” Rao argued. He further claimed that compared with the mature and advanced research in the United States, China’s research on biology and neuroscience is still on the rise, and therefore needs more funds.

As a developing country, China surely has a lot to learn from the United States’ advanced donation system. In 2015, while attending a training program in the University of Chicago, I once visited Van Andel Medical Institute located in the Michigan city of Grand Rapids. The institute, donated by the Van Andel family, one of the founders of Amway Corp., has attracted thousands of scientists from all over the world focusing on the research of cancer epigenetic and Parkinson’s disease. I was really astonished by the high quality and large scale of the institute at that time.

Donation knows no boundaries. Even if Rao’s criticism is regarded as patriotic by some Chinese, it is only narrow-minded patriotism. Instead of criticizing, I hailed Chen’s donation to other countries. In my point of view, his donation is a private thing and should not be publicly scrutinized. As an entrepreneur, Chen surely has the right to make the choice to donate his money to whichever research institutions all over the world that occupy the most optimal and unique positions in the field of neuroscience.

Three criteria, namely convertibility, efficiency and transparency, can be used to judge the quality of a donation. Convertibility means to what extent the donating money can be changed into production force and bring benefits to human being; efficiency symbolizes how long it can be realized; transparency stands for clear and clean money flow during the process. Judged by these standards, Caltech is really a wonderful recipient of the donation because it is one of the best and most reputable universities in the world. While responding to critics, Chen also described his donation to Caltech as “giving the ball to the person closest to the front door,” using an analogy from soccer.

Moreover, Chen’s donation will greatly improve the image of rich people in China. During the past years, compared with Western philanthropists such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg, Chinese billionaires are quite conservative in donation.

By criticizing those donors, we will lose more. By retrospecting ourselves, we will gain a lot. I sincerely hope that Chen’s donation to Caltech will serve as an incentive to build a more complete, efficient and transparent scientific donation system in China.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)

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