PhD in Sinology, Stockholm University

Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng is a Senior Fellow of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia. He is also the Executive Director of the Penang Institute, before which, he was the Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for five years. He is the founder-editor of Penang Monthly and ISSUES (Penang Institute) and ISEAS Perspective and Trends in Southeast Asia (ISEAS). He writes regularly for The Edge Malaysia, and other periodicals in the region. His The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (ISEAS 2007), won the “Award of Excellence for Best writing published in book form on any aspect of Asia (non-fiction)” at the Asian Publishing Convention Awards 2008. The book was turned into an award-winning musical by the Kuala Lumpur Performance Arts Centre, titled “Ismail: The Last Days”, performed in August 2008 at KLPAC. His recent books include The Eurasian Core and its Edges: Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World, and As Empires Fell: The Life and Times of Lee Hau-Shik, the First Finance Minister of Malaya.


  • Executive Director of the Penang Institute.
  • Founder-Editor of ISEAS Perspective, Trends in Southeast Asia, Penang Monthly and ISSUES.
  • Member of Penang State Government’s Penang2030 Advisory Committee
  • Member of Penang State Government’s WCIT2020 Steering Committee
  • Representative in the Integrity Institute of the State of Penang (June 2019- present)
  • Co-Chairman of Penang Green Agenda, Penang Green Council (March 2019- present)
  • Committee Member for Penang Tourism Masterplan (Jan 2019- present)
  • Member of the Strategic Communications Committee of the Penang Transport Master Plan (October 2018- present)
  • Honorary Fellow, Center for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS), Universiti Sains Malaysia (2018- present)
  • Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Contemporary China Research Center, Hong Kong Shue Yan University (January 2019-present)
  • Adjunct Professor, Taylor’s University, Malaysia (April 2019- present)
  • Member of Industry Advisory Panel, Bachelor of Social Sciences Programme, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Taylor’s University (2019-2020).
  • Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore (May 2017- present)
  • Board Member of the International Association of Fish Inspectors (IAFI) (September 2017- present)

Current Projects

Selected Publications


  • Month by Month. A Collection of Editorials by Ooi Kee Beng, Penang, Malaysia: Penang Institute, 2020.
  • As Empires Fall: The Life and Times of H.S. Lee. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing. 2019.
  • Catharsis: A Second Chance for Democracy in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya: SIRD, ISEAS Publishing and Penang Institute.
  • Chinese version of Ooi Kee Beng: The Eurasian Core and Its Edges: Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World. ISEAS 2015. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong, Penang Institute & ISEAS Publishing.

JCI Events


Selected Talks and Presentations

  • Panelist on the Session “The Future of Penang – Meeting the Entrepreneurial Challenges, Identifying New Opportunities for Growth” at the Penang Future Forward Summit, 25 October 2021, hybrid event at E&O Hotel.
  • Opening Remarks at Beyond National Education Conference (virtual) at Penang Institute in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KASpace), on 29-30 September 2021.
  • Opening Remarks at Youth TechCamp. Organised by Penang Science Cluster, 29-31 March 2021
  • Opening Remarks at TechCamp Malaysia – Philippines: Teaching Media and Information Literacy Skills in Everyday. Organised by SEAMEO RECSAM (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization – Regional Centre for Education in Science and Mathematics), Centro Escolar University (CEU), and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) based in Manila, Philippines, 29-31 March
  • Opening Remarks at LifeWorkshop jurnalis: Literasi Media dan Jurnalisme Data. Organised by Demi Masa Institute, 27-28 March 2021
  • 13-14 Jan 2020: “What is the Role of Think Tanks in Governance and Free-Market Reforms in the 21st Century’, panel speech at Asia Think Tank Network Policy Forum, organized by CIPE and IDEAS, at Renaissance Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 22-23 Oct 2019: “Limiting the Debilitating Limits of Malaysia’s Past”, panel speech given at ISIS Praxis Conference held at Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel. Session 4: Achieving Bangsa Malaysia: Socio-political Considerations Beyond 2020”.
  • 19 Oct 2019: Who Says It’s Not Possible for Malaysia to Move Beyond Identity Politics?”, panel speech given at the 4th IDEAS Liberalism Conference at Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Malaysia.
  • 18 Sept 2019: “Can the Malaysian State Free Itself from Party Politics”, talk given at “Social Science Dialogue Series” at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus. Co-organized by Taylor’s University’s School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Penang Institute, Malaysia.
  • 17 Sept 2019: “Urgent Need for Think Tanks in New Malaysia”, talk given at the Network of Malaysian Think Tanks (NMTT), at ISIS, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 29 Aug 2019: “Penang2030 and Adaptive Leadership”, talk given at the Razak School of Governance “Leadership Programme” held at Doubletree by Hilton, Penang, Malaysia.
  • 27 June 2019: Panelist for American Political Science Association (APSA) scholars’ event on “From Academic Work to Policymaking”. Held at Penang Institute, Malaysia.
  • 28-29 June 2019: Participation in T20 conference and in side event organized by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Tokyo, on “Saving Multilateralism”. In preparation for G20 Summit in Tokyo, Japan.
  • 16 May 2019: “Free and Illiberal: On the Manifest Paradox in Malaysian Nation Building” paper presented at “Localizing Liberalisms in Asia”, held at City University of Hong Kong, hosted by the Department of Asian and International Studies and Southesat Asia Research Centre, Hong Kong.
  • 10-11 May 2019: “Is Downplaying Ethnicity in Malaysia Possible?”, paper presented at “Cultural Governance in Asia: Soft Power, Place-(Re)-making and Civility” international conference, at City University of Hong Kong and at Shue Yan University, Hong Kong.
  • Apr 2019: “Federal Devolution Needs to Occur Alongside National Extrovertedness”, speech given as discussant at launch of Tricia Yeoh’s “Reviving the Spirit of Federalism: Decentralisation Policy Options for a New Malaysia”, Policy Ideas No 59. (IDEAS), at University of Nottingham, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 11 Apr 2019: Panelist on “Where do we go from here”, moderated by Imran Ahmad, Nordic Forum: “Green Growth – Sustainability through Innovation”, at Nordic Day Celebrations, JW Marriott Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Organised by the Nordic Embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 10 Apr 2019: “Electric Vehicles—Should Malaysia Ride the Coming Disruption or Keep to the Norm?”, Urban Development and E-Mobility Conference, G Hotel. Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce.
  • 3 Apr 2019: “A Quick History of Malaysia”, Swedish Regional Meeting of Sweden’s Asia Ambassadorson bus tour to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 1 Apr 2019: “The Nascent Nature of China-Southeast Asia Ties” CARI Roundtable Series: How Does ASEAN Navigate the New Trade (Dis)order at ASEAN Business Club, organised by CIMB ASEAN Research Institute and Swedish Embassy in Malaysia.
  • 15 Mar 2019: “Who is the Tourist?”, Opening remarks at WiT Indie conference, Penang Institute, Malaysia.
  • 14 Feb 2019: “Penang2030: Responding to Penang’s Socio-political and Socioeconomic Situation”, PWDC, at Jen Hotel, Penang, Malaysia.
  • 26 Jan 2019: “Continent, Coast, Ocean: A Framework for Modern History” at the Lecture Theatre, Hong Kong Central Library, Hong Kong.
  • 26 Jan 2019. Book launch of the Chinese version of The Eurasian Core and its Edges: Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World. Organised by Contemporary China Research Center, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong.
  • 25 Jan 2019: “When Will China-Malaysia Ties Be Warm Again?”, organised by Contemporary China Research Center, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong.
  • 12 Jan 2019: “Developing the Creative Industry and Cultural Sector in Penang”, panel speech at Newton Public Workshop (Social Network Analysis of Innovation Cluster in Creative and Cultural Value Chain in George Town World Heritage Site”, organised by Newton Fund UK, University of Greenwich, and Universiti Sains Malaysia, at Penang Institute, Penang, Malaysia.
  • 12 Dec 2018: “The Deeper Significance of Malaysia’s GE14 and Some Regional Implications”, Keynote speech at 2018 SEAREG Asia Meeting, Yale-NUS.
  • 8 Dec 2018: “Penang and the Region”, lunch event with World Bank Group, Malaysia, with Regional Vice-President Victoria Kwakwa, Jen Hotel, Penang, Malaysia.
  • 7 Dec 2018: “Catharsis – Leaving the Shadows of the Past”, talk at launch of “Catharsis: A Second Chance for Democracy in Malaysia”. Penang Institute, Malaysia.
  • 15 Nov 2018: “Think Tank Work in The New Context That Penang Finds Itself in Post-GE14” talk given to visiting students from Singapore’s Nanyang Chinese Girl’s School, Singapore.
  • 13 Nov 2018: “May 9, 2018 in Malaysia and the Immediate Challenges Faced”, speech at Singapore’s Civil Service College’s Leadership in Administration Programme event at Ibis Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 24-26 Oct 2018: “Persistent Support for The Opposition Pays Off for The Chinese Malaysian Minority”, Kaohsiung Taiwan, Malaysia Panel.
  • 2 Oct 2018: “The Deep Historical Significance of GE14”, Konrad Adenauer talk, Penang. Political leaders.
  • 23 Sept 2018: “Penang and Malaysia in the Aftermath of GE14”, Fredrich Ebert Stiftung and SocDem Asia, at Jen Hotel Penang, Malaysia.
  • 26 Sept 2018: “The Deeper Historical Significance of GE14”, Foreign Correspondents Club Hong Kong
  • 22 Sept 2018: “The Deep Historical Significance of GE14”, at Lost Paradise, Tanjung Bungah, SXI72 Alumni Dinner, Malaysia.
  • 16 Sept 2018: “A Future in Think Tanks”, Karim Raslan Associates intern discussion.
  • 6 Aug 2018: “What to Make of May 9, 2018 Election?”, at Konrad Adenauer Young Leaders Symposium at Four Points by Sheraton, Penang.
  • 18 July 2018: “The Significance of the May 9, 2018 Election”, talk given at HEAD Foundation, Singapore.
  • 11 July 2018: “Why is George Town Important?”. Speech given at University of Greenwich, UK, at conference on Urban Innovations.

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