The platformization of digital philanthropy in China: State, tech companies, and philanthropy engineering

Qi Song, Chengpang Lee, Ling Han

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Although there may be disagreement about the consequences of technology, such as the Internet, on Chinese philanthropy, there is consensus that giant tech companies have profoundly reshaped the field. One outcome is that this has led to the rise of digital philanthropy. The extant studies on the impact of the Internet on philanthropic practices tend to be limited to investigations of a specific platform (e.g. Weibo), while overlooking the heterogeneity of tech-empowered digital philanthropy in China. This study is an introduction to the diversity and the platformization of digital philanthropy. We use a snowball sampling online survey (n = 2132) to examine people’s attitudes towards digital philanthropy to understand user perceptions of some of the most common digital philanthropy platforms and products. The sample captures more educated mobile phone users already active on digital platforms. Based on the results, we categorize and discuss the three most mentioned types of digital philanthropy products: event-based products, issue-based products, and gamified mini-programs. We provide some insight on how these philanthropic products are engineered to blur the boundaries between online and offline activities to leverage tech companies’ mega platforms. The platformization of digital philanthropy has potential consequences for the evolving state–business–society relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-143
Number of pages21
JournalChina Information
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • digital philanthropy
  • non-profit organizations
  • philanthropy engineering
  • platformization
  • state–society relationship
  • tech companies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Economics,Econometrics and Finance


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