Bill Gates and Baidu’s Foundations set health alliance

12 June 2011 15 h 38 min 17 comments

It was rumoured that Baidu and Microsoft were working on a search partnership but their first alliance is about public health and through their non profit Foundations.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates and Robin Li, chief executive officer of China’s most popular search engine Baidu Inc., said they will form a global alliance for public health.

The first initiative by the alliance, between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s richest charitable fund, and the Baidu Charitable Foundation, will be a program encouraging smokers to quit the habit, the foundations announced at a press conference in Beijing today, in presence of the Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu.

“When we think of the creativity and the connection to so many people that Baidu has, that may be a real asset in getting out these health-related messages,” Gates said at the briefing. “We’re hoping that other people will join in, but there’s no one I’d rather be partnering with than Robin Li and the Baidu Foundation.”

This announcement was made during the second charity trip to China for Gates in nine months after a September visit in which he and Warren Buffett met with 50 Chinese leaders in business and philanthropy to discuss charitable giving. Gates, 55, is pressing the world’s rich to give away more of their money.

Baidu’s Li, 42, was ranked the richest person in China, excluding Hong Kong, by Forbes in March. His assets of $9.4 billion ranked 95 on the global Forbes list. Li started the Baidu Foundation last year and said that Gates has been an inspiration to him since before he founded Baidu. Gates started the Giving Pledge last June with Buffett for billionaires who agree to commit half their fortunes to charity. The two traveled to India in March to discuss giving with business leaders there. Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and the company has become the world’s largest software maker. He retired from active management of the company in 2008 to run the Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000In March 2011, Gates was ranked the world’s second richest man in March by Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $56 billion. Carlos Slim of Mexico topped the list with estimated assets of $74 billion, according to Forbes.

Meeting with Vice Premier

During his visit in Beinjing, Gates met Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and exchanged views on charity work and reducing poverty, according to a statement on the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

The alliance with the Gates foundation will start with helping smokers quit and raising awareness of the harm from second-hand smoke, Li said. The public health alliance between the foundations will be “open-ended” and will operate both in China and around the world, the organizations said in a statement. The alliance will undertake further public health initiatives in the future and will use China’s large online community to spread health messages, he said.

China is the world’s largest Internet market with 477 million users. And the first tobacco market in the world with more than 300 million smokers (nearly 30 percent of adults in China and a number roughly equal to the entire U.S. population). According to government statistics, smoking is linked to the deaths of at least 1 million people in China every year, making it one of the greatest health threats the country faces. .

SOURCES: Xinhua, Taiwan News, Bloomberg, AP (11/06/2011)

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