Prof Wong Tien Yin (right), eldest son of Prof John Wong, presenting the cheque to Prof Zheng
The NUS East Asian Institute (EAI) launched the John C H Wong Endowment Fund in conjunction with a new public lecture series at a commemorative event on 8 March to honour the late Professor John Wong and to celebrate his lifelong work on China studies and Singapore–China relations. The event, officiated by EAI Director Professor Zheng Yongnian and Prof Wong’s eldest son, Professor Wong Tien Yin, also marked the release of a book, China’s Economic Modernisation and Structural Changes: Essays in Honour of John Wong. Edited by Prof Zheng and EAI Senior Research Fellow Dr Sarah Y Tong, it is a rich collection of policy-oriented economic studies by Prof Wong’s many economist friends and colleagues.
A prominent economist and policy researcher, Prof Wong was a leading expert on topics such as the East Asian development model, China’s reform and opening up, China’s economic growth and transformation as well as China’s integration with the region and the world. As EAI’s research director from 1997 to 2009, and the Institute’s professorial fellow and academic adviser until his passing in 2018, he contributed greatly to the policy-oriented research that has given the Institute its distinctive character, bringing it to where it is today.
He taught at NUS Economics from 1971 to 1990 and at the request of Singapore’s former deputy prime minister Dr Goh Keng Swee, became director of the Institute of East Asian Philosophies in 1990, then helmed the Institute of East Asian Political Economy till 1997.
I cannot say enough about Prof John Wong for being with the University all these years, how much EAI has depended on him and how much we have missed him. His passing has left a huge vacuum in the Institute. I want to treat this special occasion as a celebration of his work…and celebrate Prof Wong’s dedication to the knowledge of China’s economics.
— University Professor Wang Gungwu
The Wong family donated substantially to the Endowment Fund which, including contributions from well-wishers, totalled $578,050. The Fund will enable EAI to invite eminent speakers for the John C H Wong Distinguished Public Lecture on a regular basis to foster greater understanding of the political, economic and social development of contemporary China.
The new lecture series will replace the EAI Distinguished Public Lecture series that was launched in 2008 to benefit the wider community in Singapore. Prof Zheng explained that attributing this public lecture series to Prof Wong is a fitting recognition of his scholarship and extensive contribution. The inaugural lecture was anchored by Professor Lawrence J Lau, Ralph and Claire Landau Professor of Economics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His topic “The China–US Trade War and Future Economic Relations” is a hot-button issue that has gripped worldwide interest.
Renowned historian and EAI’s former director and chairman, Professor Wang Gungwu, speaking at the event as Guest-of-Honour, said celebrating Prof Wong’s pioneering spirit and relentless pursuit of academic excellence would be the best way to remember him. He also lauded Prof Wong’s tireless dedication to deepening the community’s knowledge and understanding of the Chinese economy as well as the relationship between China and its neighbouring economies, particularly Southeast Asia.
“On behalf of my colleagues at EAI and NUS, I cannot say enough about Prof John Wong for being with the University all these years, how much EAI has depended on him and how much we have missed him. His passing has left a huge vacuum in the Institute. I want to treat this special occasion as a celebration of his work…and celebrate Prof Wong’s dedication to the knowledge of China’s economics,” he said.