Lee Kong Chian (1893-1967) was a major Overseas Chinese entrepreneur with his business network stretching across a wide swathe of Southeast Asia and China. Born in late Qing China, he migrated to colonial British Singapore as a young boy in 1903. Empowered by his bilingual competency, he began his career with the leading Chinese businessman and community leader Tan Kah Kee and later married his daughter. But he soon surged into the public limelight as a force in his own right from the late 1920s and built up a formidable cross-border business empire. Displaying his entrepreneurial flair, especially during the Great Depression and the Korean War, he became the ‘Rubber King’ and ‘Pineapple King’ of Southeast Asia. He left profound transnational imprints in the realms of business, education, and philanthropy.
However, there is inadequate documentation and a lack of serious scholarly analysis on his life and activities. There is still not one single major English-language work on him. The project aims at a monograph-length study. Apart from being grounded in the mainstay approach of a life-and-times biographical study, the project will take on the larger tasks of interrogating the relationship between Chinese entrepreneurship and ethnicity as well as probing the nature of transnationalism in Chinese businesses.