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Perspectives in Philanthropy: Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Wang Haitao Uses AI to Improve Education in China

May 21, 2018

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has become more commonplace as a tool to meet the needs of a constantly changing marketplace. This is also true for the philanthropic sector, as several donors are leveraging this emerging technology to advance their mission — and philanthropy in China is no exception.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Wang Haitao, Founder and Chairman of Beijing Yingding Education & Technology Co., Ltd., while he was in New York City with the China Global Philanthropy Institute (CGPI) as a representative of Global Philanthropy Leaders (GPL Program) on a study tour organized by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

As a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mr. Wang shared valuable insights on his projects and on the development more generally of philanthropy in China.

Getting Started in Philanthropy

Mr. Wang has made a name for himself as a leader in the Chinese education industry. In addition to founding a groundbreaking college entrance examination consulting business based on AI, he has written two books on strategies for applying to colleges in China (GaoKao Application Theory and Save Your Kids from Failing in Application). His company, Yingding, has branches in more than 300 cities with over 1000 sites and plays a leading role in helping students succeed on national college entrance examinations and admissions in Mainland China. Now Mr. Wang is expanding his focus to philanthropy, using his expertise to provide pro bono educational opportunities to China’s most promising students.

His interest in philanthropy started after meeting with representatives from the CGPI.  After several conversations during 2016 and 2017, he decided he wanted to find a way to share his wealth and started to think about areas and sectors in which he should get involved. “Basically we approached this issue from two perspectives,” he explained. “The first perspective is, based on our resources, what can we offer? What can we do? The second is, what does China need at this point?”

He determined that given his personal resources, he could be of service by helping students choose colleges and career paths. It was important to him also to look at what the students in China need. Ultimately, he determined the best way for him to help people across China would be to equip the next generation of leaders with the highest quality educational experience possible, so they could in turn contribute to the scientific and social advancements of the country.

Mr. Wang opined that each year, many talented students graduate with exceptional records and skills but without a career plan in place, thus hindering their potential for future success. He explained, “I have a belief that in addition to environmental problems and energy conservation issues in China, the biggest waste is the waste of opportunities to teach our kids what they want to pursue in the future.”

The Chinese Young Leaders Initiative: Accelerating Student Success

To address this problem, Mr. Wang launched the Chinese Young Leaders Initiative. The program, funded by Mr. Wang’s Yingding business, takes a four-prong approach to engaging young leaders:

  • Sponsoring a television program on Chinese Central Television that features Chinese leaders in science, business and government to discuss what the future could be like.  “This program is aimed at broadening the horizons of our students,” said Mr. Wang. “Even the most elite students don’t have many opportunities to hear from leaders about what their outlook is for the world.”
  • Using AI and targeted demographics to provide one-on-one consultations to help students select the best college and career path, with a customized, personalized approach for each student.
  • Providing customized lessons to these gifted students help them accelerate their learning through an AI-enabled system. “This system will have the ability to bundle everything from high school physics into a single year— to bundle three years of study materials into a one-year period so that the best students can really get forward and go ahead.” Mr. Wang further noted that because so many of these students participate in many local and international competitions, they often cannot follow the general curriculum.  His program provides customization that allows them to learn more in less time, giving them time to focus on their competitions while still learning as much as possible.
  • Assembling the best high school teachers from all over the country in Beijing for summer and winter break “masterclasses” to further support the learning of these elite students.

So far in the year since its 2017 launch, the Chinese Young Leaders Initiative has served 5,000 students representing the top 0.01% of the student population in terms of test scores. Mr. Wang eventually hopes to expand the program to serve more than 15,000 students annually.  Mr. Wang sees the potential for expansion beyond China, noting that he is exploring the possibility of working with the Obama Foundation on youth leadership programs. Ultimately, he wants to have half of his philanthropy outside of China and “would like to facilitate further cooperation” with “organizations throughout the rest of the world.”

The “Blossom” of Philanthropy in China

Mr. Wang hopes the Chinese Young Leaders Initiative will contribute to the further development of China’s philanthropic sector, which is, as he describes, “still at the infant stage.” While philanthropy has been gaining popularity among high-net-worth individuals in China–particularly since the CGPI was established–the majority of philanthropic efforts focus on poverty alleviation rather than on the root causes of poverty itself. He stated, “Philanthropy has not really permeated into solving the core fundamental social issues of those poverty problems.”

Mr. Wang feels that there are three areas of focus needed for Chinese philanthropy to mature. “First, we need better education to tell Chinese philanthropies what is the right concept of philanthropy… Second, people need to know how they can do philanthropy, what approaches they can take.” He commented on the importance of selecting the right methodology, highlighting that the same resources can play out differently depending on the methodology used. The third stage, he noted, is to mobilize as many people as possible so that philanthropists can focus in their areas of passion.

Mr. Wang expressed hope for the future of Chinese philanthropy and his belief that China is on the cusp of a philanthropic renaissance. Referencing the growth of wealth in the country, he commented that now some “people have a much easier time accumulating tremendous amounts of wealth.” Further contributing to the sector’s promise in China is the culture. “One characteristic of Chinese society is that when we decide to do something, we will do it really fast.” He concluded, “We are about to see a blossoming of a new generation of philanthropists in China, who love to do a lot for social welfare and improvement. The new generation of entrepreneurs in China learn really fast, and a lot of them have a global background. And it is time to not only learn from international philanthropic organizations’ success, but also put our potential cooperation on the agenda.”


Written by Melissa Blackerby of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Communications Team.

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