An Asia-African World Block02-18-2021
The Chinese writer Tuo Li speaks to Boundary 2 and offers his thoughts on how the pandemic might realign the cultural and political world.
Tuo Li: There have been many devastating pandemics in the past. Each time people managed to pull through them and take stock of things, they found their world completely transformed. After this pandemic, are we going to be confronted with a similarly strange new world? Quite possibly. Those from the right like Henry Kissinger to leftists like Slavoj Žižek have been making prognostic statements and there have been all sorts of assessments of the situation, mostly pessimistic and a few optimistic. I have been struck by how nearly all of them take familiar concepts, knowledge, or theories as their point of departure (intellectual resources derived from political science, economics, history, new technologies, international politics, etcetera), many seemingly unaware that these forms of analysis and reflection are bounded by their language and discourse. Their intellectual horizon is more or less predetermined and fixed, regardless of what concrete conclusions they draw by way of forecasts and predictions.
In my conversation with the scholar Li Ling in Beijing last October (prior to the pandemic), we discussed the future of the world, and I suggested the following: the current developments exhibited clear signs of East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia coming into closer economic and cultural relations and interchanges. There was a real possibility that Asia could be integrated into some kind of shared community or a single entity. Suppose we push the implications of this possibility further: what would happen if that momentum were to continue? I would say that it would most likely have a profound impact on Africa, bringing about further decolonization and modernization so that Africa would join the march toward the xiaokang (achieving a decent and dignified living for all people). Is that possible? Quite probable, even though it could be a journey with many detours and occasional interruptions. To push the thought further, would this lead to the emergence of some new community or interconnections founded in the shared interests between the two major blocks of Asia and Africa? If we take the shared historical experience of these two world regions seriously (our anti-imperial and anti-colonial struggles for independence, our painful experience with economic underdevelopment) as well as the exigencies of economic development, the scenario I have imagined is not only possible, but inevitable.