The news of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce sent shockwaves down the world. But nowhere does it seem to have had as much of an impact as in China. Social media platforms in China have been rife with messages and posts regarding the Gates divorce and also speculation about the future of the charity work done by Gates Foundation as well as Microsoft’s relations with China.
According to a report in CNN, the ‘Bill Gates Divorce’ hashtag on Chinese social media platform ‘Weibo’ has generated as many as 83 million views with nearly 66,000 posts pertaining to the tag. From the future of the couple to the impact the divorce will have on their joint charity ventures, the division of their assets and their relations to India – Chinese social media users minutely discussed each and every aspect of the Gates’ divorce, which was announced earlier in the week.
The report noted that the Gates’ divorce managed to generate far more interest in China than the recent split between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and McKenzie Scott. The news had only generated 91 million views on the Weibo hashtag.
Why China loves Bill Gates
While the Chinese interest in the Gates’ divorce may appear unusual, the curiosity may be rooted in Microsoft and its co-founder Bill Gates’ popularity in the Communist country. Gates was perhaps the only Western entrepreneur to enjoy the level of respect and popularity in China, which is traditionally wary of Western businesses and entrepreneurs.
While heading Microsoft, Gates has spent years trying to build a working and amicable relationship with China, allowing Microsoft products like the search engine ‘Bing’ and its social media platform ‘LinkedIn’. It is to be noted that Google, Facebook as well as Twitter are all banned in the People’s Republic of China.
Gates has also had the fortune of being hosted by former Chinese President Jiant Zemin in 1994 at a time when China was looking to consolidate its technology gap with the West, right before the onset of the internet in the country. Through this and various other visits that Gates made to China in the 90s, the entrepreneur was able to build a relationship with China and also pushed Microsoft as one of the top western tech companies to start operations in China.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has also played an active part in carrying out relief and poverty alleviation projects in China ever since the establishment of its Chinese office in 2007. The Gates eventually helped in setting up the Microsoft Research Lab Asia in China, which yielded several Chinese tech geniuses including Zhang Yiming who founded ByteDance which created the app ‘TikTok’ as well as top officials from Alibaba and Baidu.
While the Chinese speculated about the future of the Gates Foundation as well as Microsoft’s continued presence in China, other nations such as Africa have also expressed concerns over the split. The Foundation, through which the Gates have spent $53.8 billion for philanthropic purposes, funded several projects for poverty alleviation and development in Africa. Beneficiaries of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have expressed concerns after the billionaire couple filed for divorce, with one educator saying “the children of Africa” will be the victims, Reuters reported.
The Gates have backed widely praised programs in malaria and polio eradication, child nutrition and vaccines. The foundation last year committed some $1.75 billion to COVID-19 relief. While the billionaire benefactor couple filed for divorce on on Monday following 27 years of being married, the couple have pledged to continue their philanthropic work together.