Gates, Buffett to Issue Public Explanation for Trip to China

Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will publicly explain the purpose of their planned visit to China after a newspaper reported that a number of wealthy Chinese individuals declined to attend an event hosted by the two due to concerns they’d be asked to donate to charity.

Gates and Buffett, respectively the world’s second and third-richest people, will write a letter that may be released as early as this week detailing why they’ve invited Chinese billionaires to a private event during a visit to the Asian nation at the end of the month, Zhang Jing, a press officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Beijing office, said by phone yesterday.

“Our biggest intention for this month’s China trip is to learn how to do philanthropy in China,” Zhang said. “We would like to learn how to propel the charity business in such a big developing nation.” Gates, 54, and Buffett, 80, who Forbes Magazine estimates are worth a combined $100 billion, are aiming to press billionaires to pledge at least half of their fortunes to charity.

The Beijing-based Economic Observer newspaper reported Sept. 2 that “a small number” of wealthy Chinese declined an invitation to attend a private gathering with Gates and Buffett in the capital, with some calling to ask if they’d be asked to pledge a donation at the event. The report cited Ray Yip, head of the Gates foundation’s Beijing branch.

Small Number

Wang Chuanfu, chairman of automaker BYD Co. which is backed by Buffett, Zhang Xin, chief executive officer of property developer Soho China Ltd., and Zong Qinghou, chairman of drinks group Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co., were among those invited, the newspaper said on its website. The report didn’t identify the individuals who decided not to attend.

“So far, there are a small number of guests who are not able to turn up, but that’s quite a normal thing,” Zhang from the foundation said, declining to say who’d been invited.

The Economic Observer reported on Sept. 3 that Buffett and Gates will also travel to Shanghai and the southern province of Guangdong. The two billionaires will visit companies in which Buffett holds a stake, the newspaper said, citing people it didn’t identify.

--Vincent Ni in Beijing. Editors: John Liu, Nerys Avery

To contact Bloomberg News staff on this story: Vincent Ni in Beijing at +86-10-6649-7508 or vni1@bloomberg.net

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