Responding to COVID 19: TOChina Hub, Private Foundations and Emerging Transnational Support Networks

By Gregory T. Chin - 20 April 2020
Responding to COVID 19: TOChina Hub, Private Foundations and Emerging Transnational Support Networks

The Emerging Global Governance project's Gregory Chin argues that the TOChina Hub is an example of a virtuous combination of advanced research and the applied translation of knowledge.

In the recent weeks, TOChina Hub has been supporting the Embassy of Italy in China on the coordination of an airlift of COVID-related humanitarian assistance cargo, on flights provided by the airline Neos Spa.  

TOChina Hub is a research platform, and center of advanced training and strategic dialogue that was established in 2017 by the University of Turin , ESCP Business School and Turin World Affairs Institute.

In March 2019, the TOChina Hub, in partnership with the China Development Research Foundation and the China Global Philanthropy Institute, established the China-Italy Philanthropy Forum, as an innovative people-to-people dialogue forum involving key Italian and Chinese philanthropic organizations and world-leading exponents of philanthropy.

In responding to COVID 19, the China-Italy Philanthropy Forum intervened to help accelerate the delivery of urgent medical and healthcare material from Beijing to tackle the epidemic throughout Italy.

The Cariplo Foundation and the CRT Foundation joined the initiative for the first allocation, followed by the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the Consulta ACRI of the foundations from the Emilia-Romagna region, the Grimaldi Foundation , ENI, the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation, the Buono Lopera family, the Carispezia Foundation, the Turin Chamber of Commerce, the Turin Industrial Union, the Community Foundation of Milan, and the Agnelli Foundation.1

The airline Neos Spa flew the first cargo shipment completely at its own expense, bringing 25 tons of medical aid to Italy, and contributed to the next flights by covering the fixed costs and those of its personnel (5 flights so far in total). 


The humanitarian flights supported by the China-Italy Philanthropy Forum -- the first flight departed 27 March 2020 and the latest (the sixth) will be on 20 April 2020 – has transported not only donations collected from associated Chinese philanthropists, but also other donations from all over China and medical devices purchased from central purchasing bodies for national and regional public institutions, for transfer to Italy, which is in urgent need.

“It is a source of pride to see the ability of the various members of the University of Turin community respond, each with their own tools, to the challenge brought by this health crisis”, to quote the Rector of the University of Turin, Stefano Geuna.   “In a pandemic context, being able to activate transnational support networks is essential and the work of the TOChina Hub is an example of a virtuous combination of advanced research and the applied translation of knowledge.”

According to Giovanni Andornino, Assistant Professor of International Relations of East Asia at the University of Turin, and the Secretary General of the Forum: “The objective of the foundations participating in the first Summit last year in Rome was from the outset to promote action-oriented research and training between philanthropic experiences with high convergence potential.” 

“Of course, we would not have expected to activate a transnational solidarity mechanism as the first joint action to face a pandemic that has so far affected our two countries more than any other.”  Dr. Andornino explained that, “while Chinese philanthropists collect aid by purchasing goods in China that are sometimes unavailable on the international market, Italian colleagues intervened in support of the Embassy to bear the living costs of the next humanitarian flights to Neos and to overcome the dramatic bottlenecks in the supply of urgent goods due to the scarcity of cargo flights.”

On the Chinese side, the accounting of the donations from Chinese philanthropists, which are being collected by the Forum is regularly updated by Fang Jin, Secretary General of the China Development Research Foundation, and a former lecturer at the TOChina Summer School of the University of Turin.  Fang Jin’s participation at the Summer School was supported by the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation (one the members of the CIPF through T.wai ). 

The first shipment was 8 tons of respirators and personal protective equipment delivered to the Civil Protection of Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.

According to Romano Prodi, former Italian Prime Minister and the Italian honorary co-president of the China-Italy Philanthropy Forum, the intervention has a “choral and solidarity nature.  It is not only the affected territories that benefit from the contributions of the donor foundations, but the whole country: we need to stand together across boundaries to come out of this crisis.”



Gregory Chin is Associate Professor of Political Economy at York University, Canada. As a Non-Resident Senior Fellow of FPI, he is co-leading the Project on “Emerging Global Governance” with FPI Executive Director Carla Freeman, a joint initiative with the journal Global Policy. When visiting Johns Hopkins SAIS (Washington DC), he will also conduct research on China’s evolving relations with the global multilateral institutions.

This commentary provides updated information, as of 17 April 2020, on developments that were originally reported in (in Italian).

Photos from UniToNews.



[1] ENI is a Rome-headquartered sustainable energy company that focuses on supporting the energy transition to a low carbon future, and contributing to the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Disqus comments