Tuesday, January 8, 2013

PF February 2013 - China definitions

Resolved: On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States.

We've being do these kinds of analyses for awhile now, so let's get right to it:


on balance
"after weighing up all the factors", Collins English Dictionary.
"after considering the power or influence of both sides of a question", Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary.

rise (of China)
Here is a term with many literal meanings and, as seen from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, each is interesting in its on right:

1a: to assume an upright position especially from lying, kneeling, or sitting; b: to get up from sleep or from one's bed
2 : to return from death
3 : to take up arms
4 : to respond warmly
5(chiefly British): to end a session : adjourn
6 : to appear above the horizon
7a: to move upward : ascend; b: to increase in height, size, volume, or pitch
8 : to extend above other objects
9a: to become heartened or elated; b: to increase in fervor or intensity

While I can look at the above literal definitions of "rise" and surmise certain interesting spins on the resolution, the fact is, most people have a certain preconceived notion of what "rise" means with respect to the ascendancy of nations.  So for a more scholarly discussion of rising and particularly with respect to "China", I defer to the following:

Itzkowitz-Shifrinson, 2009:
While Schweller and Edelstein addressed the dilemmas confronting rising and existing great powers during a power transition, Johnston centered his discussion on problems in 1) defining what “rising” means, and 2) identifying useful measures of “power.” On the former, the political science literature abounds with competing conceptions of what “rising” encompasses. The “default” position equates rising with increases (in either a relative or absolute sense) in a state’s capabilities, but there is also, inter alia, a historical view (i.e. a state is rising if it is more powerful than the past); a visibility view (a state is more engaged in the world than previously); an influence view (a state increasingly affects the lives of ordinary people); a “threat to the hegemon” view; and an “inter-subjective expectations” view (i.e. a state is rising if other states view it as having a larger role in the world than in the past). As if this were not problematic enough, any number of capabilities – control over territory, alliance construction, share of world material capabilities, iron and steel production, GDP, and so on – matter in measuring power even when one employs the “default” definition of rising.

Interestingly, from the foregoing quotation, we can surmise for a nation to be considered "rising" it must be increasing in "something" with respect to the past, and that "something" is left for interpretation and debate within the context of the case being presented.

From the Encyclopedia Brittanica (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/111803/China):
"China, Chinese (Pinyin) Zhonghua or (Wade-Giles) Chung-hua, officially People’s Republic of China, Chinese (Pinyin) Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo or (Wade-Giles) Chung-hua Jen-min Kung-ho-kuo,  country of East Asia. It is the largest of all Asian countries and has the largest population of any country in the world. Occupying nearly the entire East Asian landmass, it occupies approximately one-fourteenth of the land area of the Earth. Among the major countries of the world, China is surpassed in area by only Russia and Canada, and it is almost as large as the whole of Europe."

Certainly, the average high-school debater should be able to point to China on a world map and many may be vaguely familiar with China from the media, school, and general exposure from friends, parents, and others.  I feel there is much we need to understand about the history, not only of China, but the region in which it exists, in order to gain some insight into why the "rise" of China should be a topic of debate.  So I shall endeavor to explore the topic more fully in a future post.

Once again from Merriam-Webster:
1 : conferring benefits : conducive to personal or social well-being
2 : receiving or entitling one to receive advantage, use, or benefit.

These definitions require us to define benefit:
1 : archaic: an act of kindness : benefaction
2a: something that promotes well-being : advantage, b: useful aid
It is reasonable, therefore to interpret beneficial as providing advantage or usefulness.

interests of the United States
This is where the debate potentially explodes as we are now forced to understand not so much what "interests of the United States" means as we are forced to understand, what ARE the interests of the United States?  Indeed, this is a very broad term as it would seem the US has many interests.  So first the formal definitions.  All of these Merriam-Webster definitions have value:

1a (1): right, title, or legal share in something (2): participation in advantage and responsibility
 b: business, company
2a: a charge for borrowed money generally a percentage of the amount borrowed
 b: the profit in goods or money that is made on invested capital
 c: an excess above what is due or expected <returned the insults with interest>
3 : advantage, benefit; also: self-interest
4 : special interest
5a: a feeling that accompanies or causes special attention to an object or class of objects : concern
 b: something that arouses such attention
 c: a quality in a thing arousing interest

What we will find, is the United States has all kinds of interests; national security interests, economic interests, energy interests, and just about anything which promotes the well-being of the nation, both at home and abroad.  For the purposes of this beginning analysis I will whet your appetite with this, before I explore the topic more fully later:

Caraccilo (undated):
National interest roots trace back to the Machiavelli era. Machiavelli’s concern was Italian unification and liberation from foreign occupiers. By the nineteenth century Clausewitz contended that all states are motivated by their need to survive and prosper. In the 20th century the seminal works of Hans Morgenthau considered only two interests exist: vital and secondary. Throughout the 20th Century, and most notably during the Cold War, a number of commissions established categories for compartmentalizing our national interests. The first real post-Cold War scrutiny of the compartmentalized interests occurred in July 1996 when the Commission on America’s National Interests established that there exists four levels of US national interests: vital; extremely important; just important; and less important interests. These interests look no different from those established prior to and during the Cold War and the question arises; should they be different given the changing international climate?

Interpreting the Resolution

So having basically established some semblance of definitions on a very broad topic, how can we interpret the resolution?  After weighing the all the factors, the increase of influence/power/economics/_______ of China is an advantage to the things the United States considers most important.  Potentially, the biggest problem areas in interpreting this resolution will center around the interpretations of "rise of China" and "interests of the United States".  I think most people (judges and debaters) have a generalized idea of what the "rise or China" means and what the "interests of the United States" mean without need to get overly precise.  For this reason, I expect many debates will take a generalized approach without quibbling over detailed definitions.  Some Pro teams may determine a need to narrow the scope of the debate but it will be very difficult for teams to create Con cases for all of the precise possibilities which Pro may explore, so I expect some very broad Con cases.

For information about China, click here.


Merriam-Webster online disctionary

“Assessing China’s Rise: Power and Influence in the 21st Century”, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Co-organizers:
M. Taylor Fravel, MIT, Liselotte Odgaard, Royal Danish Defense College
Joshua Itzkowitz-Shifrinson, Rapporteur, 27-28 February, 2009

Measuring A Nation’s Vital Interest: Establishing Benchmarks to Gauge the Level of Crisis Importance, Air & Space Power Journal, Maj. Dominic J. Caraccilo


  1. This past weekend my partner and I won the PF championship at a tournament at UVA.

    Certainly, this site was immeasurably helpful in my preparations for the tournament, so thank you for this post and everything else on this site!

    1. Congratulations! I am glad to have played some tiny part in your success.


Feel free to leave comments relevant to the topics and activity of competitive high school debate. However, this is not a sounding board for your personal ideologies, abusive or racist commentary or excessive inappropriate language. Everyday Debate blog reserves the right to delete any comments it deems inappropriate.