Yale Donation Sparks Backlash in China

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on January 12, 2010

No good deed ever goes unpunished. On Jan. 4, the Yale School of Management announced a pledge of $8,888,888 it received from a Chinese investor (and Yale alumnus) Lei Zhang to help build the new b-school campus. Eight is considered a lucky number in China, but it turned out to be unlucky for the generous donor, who is coming under fire in China.

Agence France-Presse is reporting that the donation has sparked a backlash in China, where some are criticizing Zhang for not giving the money to a Chinese school. Zhang, who attended Renmin University in Beijing before he went to Yale, was called “scum, trash, dog feces, traitor,” by one commenter on the web site of the Global Times newspaper.

Zhang, who says he gave the money to Yale because it changed his life, had his defenders, too—web postings and Chinese media commentaries said Chinese universities weren’t worthy of such generosity.

It all raises an interesting question: do alumni owe a debt of gratitude (or cash) to their home countries for having given them their start? Who has the bigger claim on alumni wallets: the undergraduate or graduate institution? Thoughts?

Reader Comments


January 12, 2010 4:17 PM

It doesn't matter what other people think.
Ultimately, deciding to donate money to an educational institution is a personal decision. In this case, Zhang felt that his Yale SOM MBA changed his life for the better. Kudos to him (and Yale) for his donation.


January 15, 2010 6:23 PM

Zhang Lei should be praised for his altruism. In fact,I think Zhang Lei is a patriot: his generosity will benefit Chinese and help open the door to Yale for his fellow countrymen. I am sure the negative comments are due to lack of understanding and/or information. Once the Chinese public truly understand how university donations work, they will be proud of Zhang Lei and view him as a role model. I am not a Yale grad but go Bull dogs and Chinese Yale alumni- Jia You!

English Teacher in Chinese University:

January 19, 2010 3:09 PM

Zhang intuitively knew that if he would have donated millions to Renmin University, corrupt school administrators would have primarily used the funds to make themselves rich rather than its intended purpose. Zhang has learned from previous Chinese donors' bad experiences in funding Chinese universities.


February 14, 2010 5:34 PM

I don't particularly see how the donation to Yale University would not be contributing back to the Chinese community. After all, their Chinese-Yale outreach partnership seems to be thriving, and the money is supporting the institution which created this fantastic program -- which is beneficial to Americans and the Chinese alike. As far as where one's allegiance lies, it always ought to be the one which has, indeed, most positively impacted you as an individual, not the one others dictate has impacted you most.

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