The Global Philanthropy Environment Index “Eastern Asia” region includes China, Hong Kong, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan.
The societies in the GPEI’s Eastern Asia region—China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—are markedly diverse in terms of economic development, governance, and historical legacies. But they are united by the tendency for governmental authority to historically play a dominant role in defining the “public good” and delineating acceptable ways to advance it. To some degree, this has slowed the development of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, which have only started to become more professionalized and influential over the past several decades as the region’s economies have grown richer and matured. Philanthropy now has a firm foothold throughout the region, benefitting from a sound legal framework that is generally supportive of nonprofit activity and charitable giving for all POs that meet clear standards in the advanced developed economies, and at least for POs engaged in noncontroversial areas in China.
The previous three years, from 2018 to 2020, have been marked by three trends: the continued, gradual maturation of the nonprofit sectors in the advanced economies of the region, creeping authoritarianism from Beijing, and the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past three years, efforts have been undertaken in some advanced economies—Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—to tinker with tax systems and nonprofit regulation, with steps being taken in Japan to channel new revenues into the nonprofit sector and efforts to strengthen financial reporting standards for POs in South Korea. In general, though, the political and regulatory environments for POs have remained relatively stable. At the same time, the Chinese government has continued to tightly control civil society, allowing POs that are non-controversial to operate while repressing those engaged in advocacy and politically sensitive issues. Now, there are deep concerns that the civic space for Hong Kong’s previously vibrant nonprofit sector will shrink, too, as Beijing strips away the territory’s autonomy and extends its control.
When COVID-19 hit, POs throughout the region proved their value by swiftly recalibrating their activities to help the sick and vulnerable, launching innovative new programs to ameliorate the socioeconomic toll of the pandemic and the lockdowns, and mobilizing large-scale funding to support vulnerable populations. However, the pandemic also pushed many nonprofit organizations into financial crisis, cutting their income even as the demand for their services soared.
These trends combined to drive a slight deterioration in the overall philanthropic environment in the region in the 2018-2020 period. However, the energy and the needs that have fueled the long-term expansion of the philanthropic sector in recent decades show no sign of abating and are likely to lead to further progress that allows POs to contribute more effectively to societies in the region.View the full Eastern Asia region report