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David Lo bridges two sister cities

DAVID Lo is a pioneer in China in many different ways. As one of the first private entrepreneurs in China in the early 1980s after the Chinese government opened up markets to the private sector, the Shanghai native was able to capitalize and become one of the wealthiest men in China.

What made the semi-retired Lo different from his colleagues was his willingness to hand over day-to-day control of his companies and allow his managers to lead, with profit-sharing incentives to work hard.

By relinquishing some personal control and wealth in his companies, Lo focused on his real passion: charitable giving and volunteerism.

Spending years in the United States, Lo saw firsthand how people willingly supported causes that they believed in. Lo has always been a giving person and he was very interested in expanding this habit to his country as he believes that charitable giving is a pillar of a civilized society.

If China picks this pillar, Lo says, "the people of China will be like drops of water. When you have a lot of drops together, you can move mountains.?

But Lo through a translator says that moving those mountains starts with his peers.

"There is an old Chinese saying: 'The older generation plants seeds to grow the trees, while future generations get the shade??he says.

One of Lo's trees or main causes is his work with the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee. ?

For weeks, his six-person team has been preparing the committee's San Francisco Week on June 17 to 25. They are preparing for an evening gala, cultural performances, exhibits for the Expo's Urban Best Practices Area and Sustainable Energy Forum ?all under the umbrella of San Francisco as the only US city with official participant status inside the Expo.

Lo's energies are a culmination of a 15-year relationship with the Sister City Committee.

"He as a private citizen of Shanghai has done more to help foster the cooperation and friendship between our two great cities than anyone else I can think of,?says Sister City Committee Chairman James Fang. "Lo is the living embodiment of the selfless citizen volunteer.?

As honorary director and chief China representative of the committee, Lo and his dedicated full-time staff have worked year round to foster cultural, governmental and business exchanges between the two cities. Delegation visits include senior-level government officials and business leaders from both countries.

Lo met Fang, late Sister City Committee Chairman Gordon Lau and board member Anton Qiu 15 years ago when they were looking for committee sponsors. After listening to their pitch, Lo decided to become more deeply involved ?not just monetarily.

"David is very hands-on with the Sister City Committee and is willing to do work that others consider tedious and boring, which he finds meaningful and significant,?says Qiu, committee vice chairman.

Lo, Fang and Qiu share a common trait ?they are volunteers who are not paid for their Sister City time.

Newspaper publisher Fang himself has chaired the committee since 1998. He also serves as the unsalaried president and popularly elected director of a transit system conveying more than 300,000 riders around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Qiu is a principal of TRI Commercial, a large real estate firm in the Bay Area. Like Fang and Lo, he has devoted many volunteer days and his own expenses promoting people-to-people relationships between government, cultural and business leaders of San Francisco and Shanghai.

Lo continues to press other wealthy people and companies in China to be involved in their communities and get behind nonprofit causes. Lo himself is a longtime supporter of his children's school's annual fundraisers as well as hospitals and several other organizations.

"Passion is needed, as well as patience, to fundamentally understand social causes,?says Lo.


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