Bill Gates is unforgettable for many Chinese

June 29th, 2008 - 9:45 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 29 (Xinhua) To many Chinese, Bill Gates, who stepped down as Microsoft’s executive chairman Friday, is more than a billionaire. For them he represents an age and a spirit. Chinese became familiar with his name some 15 years ago when the computer became a common household necessity.

According to an online survey at, 48 percent of the 218,550 votes listed Gates’ most impressive title as “one of the world’s richest” people.

In another survey by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education last year, the Seattle native followed late premier Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong as the most popular name among students of 19 colleges in the capital.

He replaced idols Lei Feng, a soldier characterized as a selfless and modest follower of Mao in 1963, and the adamant Paul Kocakin, hero of the Russian novel “How to Melt the Steel.”

“College students nowadays tend to be more realistic,” said Shen Jie, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research fellow.

In fact, Gates did more than tell the conservative Chinese after the country adopted its reform and opening-up policy that “greed is good.”

“The billionaire who topped the Forbes fortune list for 13 years mapped out another way to succeed,” said Zhao Lulu, 25, pursuing his masters in information and communication engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Learning from Gates who dropped out of Harvard University to start his business career, Li Wancheng, a Chongqing Technology and Business University student, quit his college to open a shop in 2005. Later he worked as contractor of Building Automation System.

“I want to become the Chinese Bill Gates,” he said. “Each success now could bring me a step nearer to my idol.”

Shortly before his retirement, the philanthropist further impressed Chinese with his huge donation to the quake-ravaged region in southwest China and the announcement that his $58 billion fortune would be used for charity.

Such outlook complies with Chinese traditional values. As ancient philosopher Mencius once said “take care of yourself if you are poor, and help others if you are rich.” And as the old aphorism goes “a legacy, good education is better than piles of gold.”

“Gates views his massive fortune as an enormous obligation. In comparison, many Chinese millionaires believe money, a reflection of self value, and earning money as a way to stand out and bring honor to their ancestors,” said an editorial in the Guangzhou Daily in the southern Guangdong Province.

The move of Gates was in sharp contrast with Chinese real estate tycoon Wang Shi.

After the deadly May 12 earthquake, which has claimed nearly 70,000 lives, the chief executive officer of Vanke came under fire for his statement that donations should be sustainable instead of a burden to enterprises.

He suggested that each employee of the company donate 10 yuan (some $1.5) once. He later apologized and pledged to invest 100 million yuan to help rebuild the quake-hit regions.

On the 2007 Hurun fortune list, the number of Chinese rich with assets exceeding $1 billion surpassed that of Germany to become second in the world.

“We should reflect on our education for children, and help them set up a good value system in the test of a soaring economy,” said a freelancer named Wang Yizhi on

On the other hand, the writer called for favorable policies in China, such as a tax reduction, to encourage rich people to conduct charity, transparency on how the money was used and a monitoring system to ensure the funds were not misappropriated.

Gates, who has visited China 10 times, disclosed his first act as a full-time philanthropist was to the 29th Olympiad hosting country; his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would promote several health programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention and an anti-smoking campaign.

Maybe the Chinese people look for more than that: Bill Gates’ spirit as well.

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