Ong Soon Keong
Nanyang Technological University
Ong Soon Keong is Assistant Professor of Chinese at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is a historian of modern China, with a particular focus on the treaty port Xiamen and Chinese migration. He is also interested in urban history, material culture, and the shifting identities of overseas Chinese. Ong received his BA in Chinese Studies from the National University of Singapore and MA and PhD in History from Cornell University.
「 “To Be or Not to Be Chinese”: Lim Boon Keng and the Politics of Identity 」
This article revisits the questions of overseas Chinese self-identifications through the thoughts and actions of Lim Boon Keng (1869–1957). Scholars are interested in Lim for how he, a Singapore-born, Edinburgh-educated medical doctor of mixed ChineseMalay racial heritage, syncretized Chinese and Western intellectual traditions, and why he abandoned his illustrious career in Singapore to serve as president of the Xiamen University in China for sixteen years. In explaining, they largely rest on the conventional presumption that Chinese emigrants were primordially tied to their homeland; it is thus natural that Lim would strive to learn Chinese culture and yearn to return to China. But as this article argues, it was external circumstances rather than internal urges that pushed Lim to China, and he promoted Chinese language and Confucianism among his peers not to make them into “authentic” Chinese but because he wanted to boost their competitiveness vis-à-vis China-born immigrants in Singapore.