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Social Investment Landscape


China’s social economy is quickly maturing, with a high concentration of new wealth, a growing number of social investors and recent government commitments to create a conducive ecosystem


Executive Summary

China has experienced a remarkable period of rapid development since its reform and opening up in 1978, shifting from a centrally planned to a market based economy. For nearly four decades, China’s GDP has averaged almost 10% per annum, the fastest sustained expansion of any major economy in history. Today, with a population of nearly 1.4 billion, China has the world’s second largest economy in real GDP terms (largest in purchasing power parity terms) and has been the largest contributor to global economic growth since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Alongside this spectacular growth has been a rise in standard of living. More than 850 million people have been uplifted from poverty since the start of China’s economic reform. China also achieved all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline and contributed significantly to the global targets. Since 2010, China has consistently exceeded the average Human Development Index value, reaching 0.752 in 2017.

The rise of domestic non-profit organisations and the formalisation of the related legislative environment are paving the way for a dynamic social economy in China. High net worth individuals are becoming increasingly engaged with philanthropy while private foundations continue to be the driving force for ecosystem development. Innovative approaches to social investment, including impact investing, green finance, and technology-enabled tools are becoming more visible in the Chinese landscape. China has demonstrated especially impressive growth in green finance and green bonds in the past few years.

China’s Fact File

China’s 2018 Fact File

1.39 billion


USD 23.3 trillion


World Rank 1


GDP Growth

USD 16,807

Per capita GDP (PPP)

World Rank 81

138 140 in 2016

World Giving Index Rank

8%giving money 6%volunteering time 30%helping a stranger


Number of Millionaires




Global Competitiveness Index

Global Competitiveness Rank (2016-2017) – 28/138


Ease of Doing Business Rank

Ease of Doing Business Rank (2018) – 78/190
Source: ADB, Charities Aid Foundation, Credit Suisse, World Economic Forum, World Bank. Figures are accurate as of March 2019


SDG Dashboard

In one generation’s time, poverty in China has decreased significantly, life expectancy has increased to 76 and literacy rate has reached 99.6% with little gender disparity. This remarkable growth can be attributed in large part to the emergence of a vibrant private sector, which in 2018 accounted for 80% of urban jobs and contributed more than 70% of technological innovation. In 2018, China continued to be the second largest recipient of foreign domestic investment in the world, behind the United States.
However, rapid development has also resulted in the significant accumulation of private wealth, and large disparities have started to emerge. In 2017, China’s Gini coefficient reached 0.467, with other research suggesting that the richest 1% of the population owns one-third of China’s wealth. Public services have been put under intensive pressure from the weight of the world’s largest population and massive rural migration. The country is also rapidly ageing with the percentage of Chinese citizens over the age of 60 projected to reach 35% by 2050 from 17% or 241 million in 2018. This has a direct impact on China’s employment population: 2018 was the first year that China’s recorded employment population decreased and the seventh consecutive year that its working age population had shrunk. Other social and environmental issues such as public healthcare and pollution also call for more strategic planning and immediate action.
China’s 13th Five-Year Plan 2016-2020 aims to address these issues and further the country’s development in a direction that focuses on innovation, coordination, green growth, opening up and inclusive development. National priority plans for eradicating extreme poverty, promoting ecological well-being and rural vitalisation have also been released and implemented.

Source: sdgindex.org (2018)

Note: The “traffic light” colour scheme (green,yellow, orange, red) illustrates how far a market is from achieving a particular goal

Government Initiatives

Government Initiatives to Address Development Gaps


SDG Goals


  • Agriculture took up 56.2% of the total land area in China, provided employment for 18% of the total labour force but only contributed 7.9% to GDP.
  • Small average farm size and increasing number of elderly farmers pose threats to the country’s food security.

Government Initiatives

  • China created its first ever National Strategic Plan for Rural Vitalisation from 2018 to 2022 to achieve significant progress in improvement of rural livelihoods by 2020, with longer-term goals of agricultural modernisation by 2035 and a “strong agriculture sector and full realisation of farmers’ wealth” by 2050.

Climate action

SDG Goals


  • China ranked 95th on the 2018 World Risk Report, placing it in the medium-risk category.
  • China’s CO2 emissions grew by 4.7% in 2018, compared to the global average of 2.7%.
  • Approximately 16% of China’s soil and 30% of China’s groundwater is polluted as of 2018.

Government Initiatives

  • At the end of 2017 China announced that it had cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 46% from the 2005 level, reaching its 2020 carbon emission target 3 years ahead of schedule.
  • A national carbon emissions trading market is being established, covering about 1,700 power firms with total CO2 emissions in excess of 3 billion tons, with trading to begin in 2020.
  • New national standards on soil pollution for businesses were put into effect in January 2019.

Energy access

SDG Goals


  • As the world’s top crude oil consumer and importer, China imported 7.6 of the 11.5 million barrels of oil consumed every day in 2016.
  • Coal consumption grew 0.5% in 2017 after 3 years’ decline and accounted for 60.4% of total energy consumption.

Government Initiatives

  • According to the Energy Production and Consumption Revolution Strategy 2016-2030, 50% of total electric power generation will be from non-fossil energy sources by 2030.
  • In 2017, renewable energy encompassed 36.6% of China’s total installed electric power capacity and 26.4% of total power generation. 85% of the government’s USD 113.4 billion investment in the power sector went towards renewable energy in the same year.

Poverty alleviation

SDG Goals


  • At the end of 2018 there were over 16 million people living below the poverty line of an annual income of less than RMB 3,750 (USD 560).

Government Initiatives

  • The government has set a target of eradicating extreme poverty by 2020. Between 2012 and 2018, it lifted more than 82.4 million people out of poverty, reducing the national poverty rate from 10.2% to 1.7%. An additional RMB 126 billion (USD 18.9 billion) will be allocated in 2019 to fight poverty, a 19% increase over 2018.

SME development

SDG Goals


  • The private sector accounted for more than 60% of China’s GDP growth and 90% of job creation in 2018.
  • In the first half of 2018, only 20.9% of bank loans were extended to SMEs, the lowest rate since 2012.

Government Initiatives

  • In September 2017, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee revised legislation to strengthen SME property right protection, provide tax benefits and reduce administrative charges.
  • The central government announced a RMB 10 billion (USD 1.5 billion) initiative to further support SME development zones in 2018.

Social Economy

China’s social economy is quickly maturing, with a high concentration of new wealth, a growing number of social investors and recent government commitments to create a conducive ecosystem


Deal Share in China

ALIA will take the lead with industry-wide solutions to address cost competitiveness and sustainability. Beneficiaries are cleaner environment for society and continued business viability.

Climate Action and Environment, Energy, Governance

This project is a FOAKE (first-of-a-kind engineering) DEMO plant in urban city for the food waste recycling with sustainable organic vertical farming showcase with zero-waste and circular economy.

Agriculture, Climate Action and Environment, Energy

Huimin works to provide small loans to natural persons, individual industrial and commercial households, small enterprises, and rural women in China’s Ningxia province in order to enhance their financial inclusion.

Agriculture, Financial Inclusion, Livelihood and Poverty Alleviation

Ocean Material Group works to prevent ocean plastic pollution through an impactful solutions platform for circular materials, upstream solutions like infrastructure and educational projects, and its network of stakeholders committed to ending ocean plastic pollution.

Climate Action and Environment, Education, Livelihood and Poverty Alleviation

Mapsea Corp.’s job matching platform SEASON is a specialised marine recruitment platform, utilising technology to link marine jobs to the right talent. The returns generated will be directed towards building a marine forest.


We aim to ensure access to high quality, inclusive, and youth-centred life skills and financial literacy for all children and young people worldwide, especially to the most vulnerable.

Education, Employability, Financial Inclusion

Landcent (China): Fighting Malaria and Infectious Diseases

By Landcent (China) Industrial & Development Co. Ltd.

Landcent (China) fights malaria by developing next generation vector control products. Our products will be used across malaria endemic countries, with primary beneficiaries being children under 5 and women.

Gender, Health, Livelihood and Poverty Alleviation

Clear Plate®: Tackling Food Waste

By Beijing Vevolution Technology Limited

Clear Plate is an app that rewards people for not wasting food and carries out the virtue of cherishing food. An AI is used to distinguish between finished and unfinished plates, and rewards users with clear plates with points to redeem for rewards or charitable giving.

Climate Action and Environment

Case Studies

Case Studies in China

British Council China: building the ecosystem, social enterprises and entrepreneurs



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The social economy in Hong Kong is growing rapidly with strong government support, a well-established philanthropic culture and increasing corporate sustainability efforts


The Indian social economy is one of the most advanced in Asia, driven by collaborative social investment, a relatively developed impact investing market and an engaged corporate sector


The Indonesian social economy is transitioning from being one largely based on a tradition of religious giving to one growing in its engagement with impact and sustainable investing and green finance


The social economy in Japan is one of the most mature in Asia driven by professionally managed foundations, increased interest from mainstream investors and innovative investment models


Malaysia’s government agencies and supportive sustainable finance policies, coupled with its status as a leader in Islamic finance, indicate the high growth potential for this developing social economy


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Social Investment Landscape in Asia