He was also a social activist, whom America’s Central Intelligence Agency suspected of building rubber mills in Canton (Guangzhou today) and Hainan to supply rubber to the Soviet Union in 1950.
Tan was also suspected by the British of supporting communists in China, and that’s why they refused him entry to Singapore in in 1950.
Nevertheless, Tan Kah Kee still managed to build his pineapple canning and rubber milling empire, and also ran the Nanyang Siang Pau on the side.
Together with his brother Aw Boon Par, Aw not only ran his Tiger Balm business, but also newspapers the Singapore Tiger Standard, and the Sin Chew Jit Poh.
And, he was detained for his involvement with the Communist Democratic Youth League in 1949, according to CIA reports.
According to the CIA, Aw was also reportedly trying to build guan xi with the communist government in China, but that didn’t work out and that spurred him to criticise the communist government in his newspapers!