Wang Gungwu (王賡武), an Australian historian who focuses on China-Southeast Asian relations, was yesterday announced as the winner of this year’s Tang Prize for Sinology for his research into the Chinese world order, Chinese overseas and Chinese migratory experience.
Academia Sinica vice president Huang Chin-Shing (黃進興), who is chairman of the Tang Prize selection committee, made the announcement at a news conference in Taipei.
Wang has developed a unique approach to understanding China by scrutinizing its long and complex relationships with its southern neighbors, which “enriched the explanation of China’s changing place in the world, traditionally developed from an internalist perspective or in relation to the West,” Huang said.
Photo provided by the Tang Prize Foundation
The 89-year-old enjoys a unique vantage point that affords distinctive insights into Chinese history, as he was born in Indonesia and educated in British Malaya and London, the Tang Prize Foundation said of Wang.
Wang, who graduated from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and continued his academic career in Malaya, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, is an expert in the interpretation of how China views the world, the foundation said.
His work has modern implications, showing that although China’s southern maritime outreach has clearly become central to its economic development, as shown by the Belt and Road Initiative, potential conflicts with Southeast Asian nations have yet to be understood and properly dealt with, it said.
In addition to Wang’s academic achievements, he has also been a model leader, holding positions including president of the University of Hong Kong and chairman of the Institute of East Asian Political Economy in Singapore.
The honors he has received include Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the international Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize and foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the foundation said.
The Tang Prize is a two-yearly award established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin (尹衍樑), chairman of the Ruentex Group, to honor people who have made prominent contributions in four categories — sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and rule of law.
Winners of the prize receive a cash award of NT$40 million (US$1.35 million) and NT$10 million in research funding, along with a gold medal and a certificate.
A week-long program for the awards ceremony is to begin on Sept. 20.
The inaugural Sinology winner was Yu Ying-shih (余英時), while William Theodore de Bary won the 2016 prize. In 2018, the prize was shared by Stephen Owen and Yoshinobu Shiba.
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