Chinese Philanthropy in Southeast Asia

For some Chinese-Americans, the Chinese diaspora is seldom thought of beyond the U.S., except perhaps when one travels to a foreign country and sees a Chinese restaurant or carryout – no matter what country they are visiting.

The approximately 40 million overseas Chinese make up a significant population of countries outside of China. A recent article shed insight into diaspora giving from Chinese living in Southeast Asia. The article, “Chinese Philanthropy in Southeast Asia: Between Continuity and Change“, by Thomas Menkhoff, a management professor at the Singapore Management University, focused on the increasing levels of wealth the increasing number of professionals in the ranks of overseas Chinese, and the family patriarchs who control family-owned conglomerates and dominate much of the region’s corporations.

Prof. Menkhoff writes:

While traditional stereotypes of ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia as being particularistic and clannish continue to exist due to ignorance and lack of knowledge, examples of generous philanthropic acts initiated by ethnic Chinese – such as the Indonesian tycoon Putra Sampoerna or Singapore’s Lien Foundation which transcends ethnic and communal boundaries – suggest that there is not only a significant philanthropic potential amongst ethnic Chinese in the region, but also considerable change in terms of worldviews and identity formation. Nowadays, the second and third generation offspring of first generation Chinese immigrants are represented in all major professional fields, including science, engineering, finance, business and civil society. Along with their greater educational advancements, there has been a tremendous increase in affluence in Asia. 

Charitable giving by the Chinese in Southeast Asia tends to favor educational institutions, as well. The findings are relatively similar to the issues facing Chinese-Americans, except for maybe the number of large business-owning families.  In all, the article is a solid analysis of Chinese philanthropy in the region, and one we will add to our resources page.

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