Wang Gungwu (王賡武), a leading historian on China-Southeast Asian relations, was announced as the 2020 Tang Prize Laureate in Sinology on Saturday for his research into the Chinese world order, Chinese overseas, and Chinese migratory experience.
Huang Chin-Shing (黃進興), vice president of Academia Sinica and chairman of the Tang Prize selection committee, made the announcement at a press conference in Taipei.
Wang has developed a unique approach to understanding China by scrutinizing its long and complex relations 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.
The 89-year-old laureate 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, according to the Tang Prize Foundation.
Wang, who graduated from the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London and continued his academic career in Malaya, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, is recognized as an expert in the interpretation of how China views the world, the foundation said.
The Australian's work also has modern implications, which point out that although China's southern maritime outreach has clearly become central to the nation's future economic development, as shown by the One Belt One Road initiative, potential conflicts with Southeast Asian nations have yet to be understood and properly dealt with, it said.
In addition to Wang's scholastic achievements, he has also been a model academic leader, holding positions that range from 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, Winner of the international Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize, and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the foundation said.
The Tang Prize is a biennial 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 revolving around the awards ceremony will kick off on Sept. 20.
The inaugural Sinology laureate was Yin-shih Yu (余英時), while William Theodore de Bary won the 2016 Sinology prize. In 2018, the prize was shared between Stephen Owen and Yoshinobu Shiba.
(By Lee Hsin-Yin)