Shaping Philanthropy for Chinese Diaspora in Singapore and Beyond: Family, Ancestry, Identity, Social Norms
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This study analyzes 21 high and ultra-high-net-worth data points whose entities migrated from mainland China into Southeast Asia, and now, with their descendants, have settled in Singapore. Though removed from China over generations, they still retain a continuum of evolved values that were germinated from Confucian morals, rituals, and values — more popularly recognized as Chineseness. This study investigates these traditions, ethos, and value systems through the lens of philanthropy. The principal results and conclusions are: 1) Due to push and pull factors, millions of Chinese migrants fanned out into the Nanyang (Southeast Asia) from mid-1800s to the late 1900s. The first-generation diasporic Chinese (G1) left China with a sojourner mentality. Hence their early philanthropic action mirrored sojourners’ mindsets and pointed their giving back to China, the motherland. 2) As Chinese diaspora and their ethnic Chinese descendants (G2, G3, G4) eventually settled as nationals into various countries of Southeast Asia, new hybrid Chinese identities emerged. 3) Their Confucian Chinese values were confronted and severely tested – very often remolded and evolved as they assimilated, acculturated, and converged with social norms dictated by local indigenous cultures, and political, social, and economic circumstances of the times. 4) Confucian values — honoring the family name and continuing the ancestral lineage — behest multi-generations to stick together in strength. With self-help and mutual aid philanthropy, they thrived in the Nanyang. Very soon, Chinese diaspora’s economic success propelled them into leadership. As leaders of local communities, their loyalties, generosity, and philanthropic action shifted as new generations, locally born, begin to identify as nationals of these countries and engender gratitude to where they built their wealth. Eventually, generosity to China by follow-on generations pulled back or ceased. 5) In philanthropy, the age-old values of family, ancestry, humility, and benevolence now give younger generations of ethnic Chinese pride and purpose to give outside of the traditional familial lines to create opportunities and transform lives in the communities where they work and live – including public good for the countries where they operate their businesses in Southeast Asia and beyond.