The Eastern Asian region of the Global Philanthropy Environment Index comprises China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and Japan. The history of the region is tied to the evolution mainly of China and Japan.View the full Eastern Asia region report
Japan established itself as a strong political and industrial state by the late 19th century. In 1937, Japan invaded China and during World War II, became an ally with Germany against the U.S. allies. After its defeat and massive devastation during WWII, Japan took nearly three decades to revive its economy and civil society.
Hong Kong and Taiwan were part of the greater Chinese Empire under the Qing Dynasty. Hong Kong is now a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China; however, it retains control over its political and economic systems independent from China.
Taiwan is an island state in the East of China, annexed to the Chinese empire under the Qing Dynasty and later handed over to Japan in 1895. With the fall of Japan in World War II, Taiwan became part of the then Republic of China (ROC). The question of sovereignty of Taiwan is still an issue of political debate between Taiwan and China. Korea was under Japanese rule during 1905-1945. At the end of World War II, the southern part of the Korean Peninsula known as Korea established a democratic state, while a communist style government was established in North Korea.
The region has a rich socio-cultural heritage and is socio-economically diverse. Taiwan and Hong Kong together share socio-cultural similarities with mainland China in terms of ethnicity, traditional practices, food habits and language. More than 90 percent of the population in China and Taiwan are Han Chinese, while in Hong Kong 93 percent of the population are Chinese (CIA. The World Fact Book, 2016).
Mandarin Chinese is the official language in both Taiwan and China, and Cantonese—a dialect of the Chinese language—is the official language of Hong Kong along with English. In 2015, the gross enrollment ratio in tertiary education in China was 43.4 percent, 63.4 percent in Japan, and significantly higher in Korea (93 percent) (UNESCO, 2017).
In Hong Kong, there was a 100 percent gross enrollment at the secondary level in 2015 (World Bank Development Indicators) and 21.7 percent had attained the bachelor's level or equivalent in 2015 (UNESCO, 2017).
The region has maintained exponential economic growth in the past decades and several economies are economic powerhouses of Asia with an annual GDP growth rate in 2016 of 6.7 percent in China, 2.8 percent in Korea, 1 percent in Japan, and 2 percent in Hong Kong (World Bank, 2016).
China and Japan hold the position of the second and third largest economies in the world respectively, although in comparison the GDP growth of Japan in 2017 was lower than in China. According to the Forbes' 30th Annual World's Billionaires Issue, China has 251 billionaires, second only to the USA, and China’s middle class is the largest in the world with wealth between US$50,000-$500,000 (Forbes Corporate Communications, 2016).
Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest financial centers. Currently a Special Administrative Region of the Peoples’ Republic of China, Hong Kong enjoys a "high degree of autonomy" about its economy. Hong Kong maintains its open market economy based on international trade and finance with no tariffs on imported goods, unlike the socialist economic system in China.
Its currency had been closely linked to the US dollar since 1983. Taiwan and the Republic of Korea are also important economic hubs for global manufacturing in electronic components and automobiles. Taiwan has established itself as an economic powerhouse and has maintained steady GDP growth since the early 1960s. Politically, Taiwan holds fair and transparent elections and has established stable democratic institutions, a functional bureaucracy and a vibrant civil society.
The Republic of Korea has maintained rapid economic growth since the 1960s with high levels of per capita income. The country has a steady population growth of 0.5 percent since 2010 and a GDP growth rate at 2.8 percent in 2016 (World Bank). After the elections of 2017 that followed investigations of allegations of corruption and bribery, surrounding then-President Park Geun-hye, democracy in the Republic of Korea seems to have come out even stronger.
East Asia exhibits a wide range of philanthropic policies and levels of freedom. Most governments in the region provide favorable tax treatment, limited restrictions on cross-border philanthropy, and strong support for cooperation between social service organizations and the government.
There are strong social and cultural philanthropic traditions across East Asia, which tend to support charity as a fundamental part of the social fabric. However, there is a stark contrast between China (score of 2.77) versus the other four East Asia participants (all over 4.0) in terms of the current philanthropic environment.
As civil society is seen as a potential source of unrest by some in China, philanthropic support for advocacy organizations has become more difficult despite strong support for social service organizations. In the rest of the region, legal reforms in recent years have primarily been in the direction of increased transparency and encouragement of philanthropy.
The region faces various social and political stresses that may shift the philanthropic culture in the years ahead. An aging population and low birthrate will create a strain on government social services that may need to be supplemented by philanthropic organizations. Growing wealth, particularly in China, is leading to the emergence of megadonors and an increasing professionalization of the philanthropic sector, although still significantly less developed that in Europe and North America.
While there is a shared history of philanthropy in the cultures and religions of the region, the view of current governments as to the proper role of philanthropy is much less consistent or settled.