The 1st Session of Liangxiang Forum | Historical Self-consciousness: Studying on the Early Reforms in African States
On the afternoon of May 10th, 2021, the 1st session of Liangxiang Forum organized by Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) in Spring 2021 was held at Conference Room 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “Historical Self-consciousness: Studying on the Early Reforms in African States”. The lecture was presented by Prof. Li Anshan, Emeritus Professor of Institute of Afro-Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Peking University, and Contract Professor of Center for West African Studies of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and hosted by Yang Chongsheng, Assistant Research Professor at IIAS. Doctorate candidates and research professors at IIAS as well as online external participants attended the event.
This lecture focused on the studies on the early reform in African states. At the beginning of the lecture, Prof. Li reviewed the historical similarities between China and Africa and five basic facts about China-Africa relations through extensive pictures. He pointed out that Samir Amin, a famous neo-Marxist theorist, believed that Egypt’s Muhammad Ali reform and Japan’s reform were “the only modernization attempts” outside Europe in the 19th century, but this view was wrong. There were a number of early reform attempts in Asia and Africa during that period.
Later, Prof. Li introduced two types of early reforms in African states, namely endogenous reforms and exogenous reforms, in terms of the context. He further explained the characteristics of endogenous reforms by taking the reform of Oyo Kingdom and the Kedova reform of Ashanti Empire as examples. Prof. Li stressed that endogenous reforms at the upper level benefited from wise leaders, which were triggered by a variety of internal factors, ranging from economic and social development to internal conflicts of inheritance. In fact, these reforms reinforced the national strength. Next, Prof. Li drilled down into the early exogenous reforms of African states and vividly illustrated the Afonso I reform of Congo Kingdom, the Ali reform of Egypt, the “pre-industrialization” reform of Madagascar and also Ethiopia’s reform. He stated that an exogenous reform occurs when a state is influenced or threatened by external forces, and realizes that only through reform can it enhance its national strength or fight against foreign enemies. However, with the exception of Ethiopia’s successful reform, other reforms in that period were interrupted. At the end of the lecture, Prof. Li analyzed the characteristics of early reforms in African states and guided the audience to think about the issue. In particular, he pointed out that the early reforms of African states should be assessed in the context of the rise of capitalist system, so as to better understand the relationship between Africa and Europe.
After the lecture, Prof. Li had heated interactions and discussions with the onsite and online audience on the complexity of colonialism, the gains and losses in the process of modernization of African states, and how to define “modernization”.
Prof. Li Anshan is Emeritus Professor of Institute of Afro-Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Peking University, and Contract Professor of Center for West African Studies of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. His research interests cover African history, colonial history, China-Africa relations, overseas Chinese, comparative nationalism and development studies. He is the author of Ancient Kingdom of Africa, Selected Social History Materials of Overseas Chinese in Africa, Studies of African Nationalism, “On the Interaction among Nation, State and International Politics – Reflection on the Rwandan Massacre”, “Paradox between Democratization in Africa and National Construction” and “Africa from the Perspective of Globalization: Development, Aid and Cooperation – Also on Several Issues in China-Africa Cooperation”.
Text by: Wang Zijing
Typesetting by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: Yang Guang & Zhang Yuan