He gives to stir charity in others

Times Staff Writer

Steel magnate Cyrus Tang, once described by an Asian American news website as “the most secretive of Asian American billionaires in America,” recently spoke about his philanthropy to a reporter for the first time.

The 78-year-old China native, who came to the United States in 1950 as a student, has invested more than $150 million in three foundations that focus on education, healthcare and community involvement.

Tang, whose 40-plus steel, pharmaceutical and furniture affiliates in four countries annually gross more than $1 billion, said he employs a deliberate strategy of using philanthropy to inspire charitable impulses in others.


In China, for instance, he has given more than 10,000 scholarships to students with the proviso that they reciprocate through community service. The experience transformed many of them from “feeling sorry for themselves to wondering what they can do to help others,” the soft-spoken Tang said during a recent interview in Las Vegas.

Among other projects, Tang has built hundreds of schools and hospital facilities in China and supported a traditional Chinese medicine research center there and at the University of Chicago, a new U.S.-China institute at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica and nonpartisan voter education, analysis and demographic research at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles.

Tang said he intends to bequeath to his foundations all of his personal assets -- an undisclosed figure that associates say numbers in the hundreds of millions.

“I believe success in life is not based on assets gained or knowledge acquired,” Tang said. “It is how we make use of what we have to contribute to society.”