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Asia Pacific Center


Chinese Philanthropic Response to COVID-19 in the Malaysian Context

The data associated with this publication are in the supplemental files.

The novel human coronavirus disease COVID-19, first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and subsequently spread worldwide, has evolved into a global health and socioeconomic crisis so serious it has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As governments of the world are battling the pandemic and the rising number of COVID-19 cases, it is at this critical juncture that such a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented scale and impact has put charities and philanthropy under the spotlight. In Malaysia, the Chinese community has long been known for its philanthropic contributions. From the second half of the 19th century to Malaya’s independence in 1957, the country witnessed the active philanthropic roles played by a considerable number of key businessmen and influential leaders in the local Chinese community, such as Yap Ah Loy, Chan Sow Lin, Cheong Fatt Tze, Tan Kah Kee, Loh Boon Siew, Robert Kuok Hock Nien, and Lim Goh Tong. Post-independence Malaya (Malaysia in 1963) too saw the likes of Teh Hong Piow, Tiong Hiew King, Jeffrey Cheah Fook Ling, and Vincent Tan Chee Yioun in the pursuance of various philanthropic endeavours. In the past years, several Chinese Malaysians from different business sectors have been listed by Forbes Magazine as the “Heroes of Philanthropy”; many of these figures own corporations and businesses that make financial contributions to charitable organisations as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Meanwhile, since the outbreak of the first cases of COVID-19 in the country, many local Chinese individuals, businesses, and organisations have remained committed to philanthropic efforts to fight the coronavirus and help those affected by it, regardless of ethnicity and religion in multiracial Malaysia. It is within the aforementioned context that this paper aims to explore Chinese philanthropy in Malaysia, by taking as a point of departure its response to the COVID-19 crisis. By using the content analysis technique, the researchers examined various news sources in the period between March and December 2020 for data on local philanthropic activities aimed at battling the coronavirus. The research outcome shows that although various philanthropic efforts rendered during the COVID-19 period cannot be directly comparable to those done in the past in terms of value, Chinese Malaysians’ passion for and commitment to philanthropy remain evident.

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