THE late Dr Lee Poh Ping left an academic void that will be hard to fill.
The former Universiti Malaya (UM) professor was an international relations expert who was considered an authority on East and South-East Asia.
To honour Poh Ping, two academic publications which contain his writings, were produced by his peers.
University of Malaya Press will publish a book titled The Chinese Overseas in Malaysia in an Era of Change: Remembering Lee Poh Ping while the Journal of Contemporary Asia (JCA) has come out with a special issue, Malaysia and China in a Changing Region: Essays in Honour of Professor Lee Poh Ping (Issue number 5, Volume 47, December 2017).
Fittingly, the launch of both titles was held at the Institute of China Studies (ICS) in UM where Poh Ping served as a senior research fellow until he passed away on Nov 21, 2016, at the age of 74.
ICS director Prof Datuk Dr Danny Wong Tze Ken, who launched the book, noted that Poh Ping was one of the institute’s pioneer staff when he joined in 2009.
“The book is a compilation of articles he wrote with two frequent collaborators, Dr Lee Kam Hing and Dr Cheong Kee Cheok,” said Prof Wong.
“The topics range from how the Chinese responded to the Great Depression, the community’s resilience during financial crises and their remittances to China to the manner in which Robert Kuok (the richest man in Malaysia) transformed a family-owned company to an international conglomerate.
“In much of their writings, the two Lees and one Cheong, as they were fondly known, showed that despite the rise of China, Chinese Malaysians do not identify with the country and there was no shift in their allegiance to Malaysia.”
Prof Wong read out an email he received from Dr Cheong, who could not be present, in which he said that for a long time, Poh Ping had wanted to put together a volume of their papers.
“That he got his wish posthumously is a fitting conclusion to his career,” said Dr Cheong in his message.
Also present at the launch were the co-editors of the special JCA issue, its editor-in-chief Prof Kevin Hewison from the University of North Carolina, United States, and Prof Tham Siew Yean from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. JCA is a Tier 1, ISI-indexed journal.
Prof Hewison noted the special issue focussed on topics that were of particular interest to Poh Ping.
It includes an article written by Poh Ping with Kam Hing and Dr Cheong entitled From Patrimonialism to Profit: The Changing Flow of Funds from the Chinese in Malaysia to China which assesses the change in the relationship between Malaysian Chinese and a rising China.
“Many of the articles in the special issue were written by colleagues and friends of Poh Ping and centred around key themes of his research, the rise of China and the impact this has had on Malaysia’s political economy,” said Prof Hewison.
The launch was followed by an academic dialogue on Malaysia-China Economic Relations featuring Poh Ping’s other collaborators.
They spoke of their ongoing research projects on topics that Poh Ping would probably have collaborated on or taken a lively interest in.
Prof Tham, Assoc Prof Dr Kuik Cheng Chwee and Dr Andrew Kam spoke on “Changing Dimensions of Trade and Investment Relations between Malaysia and China”.
Dr Zhang Miao spoke on “China’s Foreign Direct Investment and its Impact on the Ethnic Chinese Business Community in Malaysia” while Dr Li Ran’s topic was “China’s Outward Investment in Malaysia and its Controversy - The Case of a Steel Project”.