China’s real estate elite continued to build bridges with the US this week when Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi – the flamboyant couple behind developer SOHO China – announced a $15 million gift to Harvard University.
The pair of property entrepreneurs donated the cash to kickstart a $100 million endowment aimed at sending poor Chinese youth to top universities around the world, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
“Getting the best education should not only be for those who have the means – it should be for those with the talent,” Zhang told the Journal in an interview.
The gift to the famous US university is the second time within a year that a Chinese real estate tycoon has made a major gift to the institution, following Evergrande Real Estate’s endowment of a number of new facilities including the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Center for Mathematical Sciences and Applications in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Evergrande’s gift to the university was followed quickly by an announcement of a partnership between a hospital affiliated with the school and Evergrande to develop for-profit medical facilities in China.
Harvard Continues to Attract China’s Elite
During her rise to the top levels of China’s newly wealthy, Zhang has frequently repeated stories of hardships in her own background, including working in a factory during her youth.
In the interview with the Journal, Zhang indicated that the scholarships would be designed to support the education of Chinese students who qualify to attend schools such as Harvard, but lack financial means. Harvard currently admits students regardless of financial status, and in 2012 had the largest endowment of any university in the US, with $32 billion in assets.
In addition to benefitting from financial gifts, Harvard has been a favorite destination for many Chinese. Wang Shi, the chairman of the country’s largest developer by sales, China Vanke, studied at the university last year, and President Xi Jinping’s daughter was an undergraduate there.
Bo Guagua, the youngest son of fallen party leader Bo Xilai also completed a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2012.