Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Framework in Public Forum Debate - part 2

This is part two of a two part series on framework in Public Forum debate.
Click here to go to part 1.

The Comparative Framework

Many resolutions will require the judge to decide between two competing propositions on the basis of comparative advantages.  Sometimes, these resolutions are very clearly delineated as a choice between options; popular vote versus electoral system, costs of college education vs the benefits of college education.  More often they are implicitly comparative. For example, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States suggests an analysis of the benefits versus the harms of the rise of China; our current foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security suggests a debate about the advantages of our current policy versus the harms.  In fact, since the very nature of Public Forum Debate (in fact all debate) requires opposing points of view a judge will very likely be making a decision based on some kind of comparison of the advantages of one side versus the other.  (Not always, because there are times when a debate becomes less about the comparative advantages and more about the rules-based or interpretive evaluations.)

At this point, we could break off into a lengthy discussion about various techniques for how to argue advantages and disadvantages.  They must have uniqueness, they must have an evidential link to the claim and they must have impacts.  Once the uniqueness and link are clearly established the impact becomes the primary aspect of concern and is the basis for comparison to other advantages or disadvantages.  For the purposes of this article, I would like to assume the reader has a certain familiarity with the techniques and focus more on setting up the comparative framework.

If we look, for example, to the resolution which says the United States should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts, it should be clear the debate will look at the comparative advantages of tax increases versus spending cuts.  It would be very simple to research, say, tax increases and come up with a laundry-list of benefits arising from tax increases and perhaps multiple reasons they should be supported.  One may even discover and cite many reasons why spending cuts are bad.  All of these facts could be written into a case and read to the judge.  Nevertheless, this approach is not desirable because it is reminiscent of a "scatter-gun" approach of pitching a laundry-list of claims, and then narrowing down to those which seem to be winnable based upon how the other team deals with the case.  This approach can win debates because, as I have stated several times in this series, the judge must make a decision and she will.  However, by setting up a framework early in the debate and grounding your entire approach to the case based upon the framework you choose, you are able to focus the debate much earlier, center the judge on the key issues and provide a basis for determining the winner at the start rather than the end of the debate.

To further illustrate the concept, let us assume you have reviewed your evidence and believe your strongest arguments focus on unemployment and the national debt.  At the beginning of the case you create the framework for the comparative analysis: "the key issues at stake in this debate are the current high rate of unemployment and the soaring national debt.  We believe the side which better reduces unemployment and the debt without creating other problems in the process will win the round."  Now the judge knows what will be compared and in this case the basis for the comparison will be the one which reduces the indicated items with the least amount of negative side-effects.  Just knowing this is your framework helps you as a team focus your arguments on the key issues right from the beginning.

Like Lincoln-Douglas debate, the framework creates a kind of "value" structure.  These are the standards.  Everything in your case will be aimed toward achieving the standards you establish while your attacks against the opponents will be directed toward showing how their case fails to achieve those standards.  The case which meets or exceeds the standards wins the round.  More importantly, the framework provides a mechanism for you to impact your attacks on the opponents case.  For example, the opponents may claim cuts in entitlements spending will reduce the national debt, you counter with evidence cuts will increase the burden on families which will cause them to tighten their belts.  With the framework you have a mechanism for extending the counter-claim and explain why belt-tightening matters.  "When people tighten their belts, consumer spending drops which increases unemployment and the high rate of unemployment is one the key factors we are addressing in this round."  Everything ties back to the framework which is the standard you want the judge to use when evaluating the round.

Selecting the Framework

It goes without saying the framework one chooses needs to be one which is winnable and a winnable framework is one the judge can agree with and understand.  In the tax increases versus spending cuts example in the preceding part, we used reduced unemployment and reduced debt as the comparative standards.  These are objectives that any judge should easily be able to accept and understand because the concepts have direct impact in the experience of the judge.  If the framework was based on reducing imports from China, the value of doing so starts to become more obscure and debatable.  Practically no reasonable person questions the value of reducing unemployment.  Many will debate the value of reducing imports from China.  If possible you want your framework to avoid becoming the focus of the debate.

Another key aspect of a good framework is it will tend to simplify the debate rather than complicate it.  It is very important to reduce your case complexity rather than increase it.  This is achieved by first selecting a framework which is understandable to any person of general intelligence and making sure the framework is not comprised of multiple steps or parts.  Another important part of reducing the case complexity is making sure your contentions, arguments, claims and counter-claims link as directly as possible to the framework.  For example, if you say, this contention does this which leads to that which results in another thing which links to my framework then maybe you need to rethink the claim or the framework.  Multiple links to the framework are complicated and vulnerable.

Framework as a Research Tool

Establishing a framework early in your case development cycle allows you to focus your research.  Since you will want to build upon the selected framework, it is possible to direct your research toward evidence which links to the standards.  Not only is this important for supporting your own case but it is equally important for researching answers or rebuttals to possible arguments which will be made by your opponents.  If you can link, with evidence, your counter-claim to your framework, you provide a direct impact for the judge's evaluation.


Adding the Framework

Building the framework into the case, or perhaps more properly, building the case around the framework will require one to first figure out, what is the framework I want to use?  This is not always simple but a good place to start is by trying to figure out, what do you want the judge to use to evaluate your case?  Try to evaluate your case like a judge and focus upon what should be the deciding factor which determines who wins.  Referring to the example already given which states tax increases should be prioritized over spending cuts, it is obvious the Pro will advocate tax increases but what the resolution does not specify is why one should prefer tax increases instead of spending cuts?  By what standard of measure do we determine that tax increases are better?  By choosing reduction in unemployment and national debt, we create a clear standard the judge can use and one that is measurable and tracked by relevant agencies.  There is nothing abstract about it.  For a topic like, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States, again Pro must advocate the rise of China is beneficial but by what standard of measure?  Once again, after some research, Pro could decide, the position which better protects security interests or which better protects economic interests should win.  Since these also tend to be broad we can further refine the standards to the side which better prevents nuclear proliferation or which increases economic prosperity. These refined standards are sufficiently narrow yet carry large impacts which the judge can understand and agree.  (I am not suggesting you actually use these particular standards - I am merely illustrating the concept which demonstrates how to narrow the standards to something real, measurable and impactful.)

Once you have decided upon a framework, which may be a combination of comparative and interpretive elements, you should state it early in the body of the constructive speech.  This does not mean you should say, "our framework is...", in fact it may be a good idea to not even mention the word framework since many PF judges are not sure what you are talking about in the first place.  Nevertheless, it is legitimate to let the judge know early what are the criteria you feel are vital to evaluating the case and so you mention this in the beginning prior to the contentions.

When the framework is declared, the remainder of the case and indeed the remainder of the debate should somehow always link back to the framework.  each of your arguments, whenever possible, should demonstrate they are supporting the standards whereas, the opponents' case is not.  These standards then carry through, all the way to final focus and serve as the basis of the key voting issues.

Framework Abuse

I only want to make a few brief comments about the abuse of "framework" and abusive frameworks.  I differentiate because I have seen debates where one side will say something late in the round like, our opponents have not challenged our framework or some other "framework" comment which tends to rattle novice or inexperienced debaters.  But the truth is, I as the judge, failed to see any framework as well and yet the team suddenly is chirping on about its framework.  Not only was this confusing to the other team, it was confusing to me as judge.  If you have a framework, declare it in observations or some obvious way and run it.  Don't try to play games and mask it or disguise it in some way.  Also, don't try to be clever and set up some ridiculously restrictive or unreasonable framework which attempts to kill the opponents' offense.  It serves no purpose other than irritate many judges and just increases the chance your framework will be dismissed early.

The Opponent's Framework

Perhaps your opponent speaks first (or second) and establishes their own framework, or least you think they do.  It is important, perhaps in the cross-fire that you understand what exactly is their framework.  Knowing this will provide insight into the direction their case will take but that is not necessarily an advantage for you.  What you must do, however, is decide how to deal with the opponent's framework.  You have two choices.  You may decide to debate under their framework or you may offer a framework of your own.  Even if for some reason you decide not to debate under their framework but offer no competing framework then you will in fact still be forced to compete with their framework whether you like it or not unless you can give the judge a good reason to reject their framework.

Of course you may always reject the opponents' framework by claiming it is somehow abusive, overly restrictive, unfair, or a misinterpretation of the intent of the resolution or your burden.  There is a good chance that if the opponent's framework is bad, the judge will see it too.  Nevertheless, I caution against turning the round into a debate over framework.

Likewise, the opponent will want to reject your framework or somehow discredit it.  If your framework is one a reasonable judge can support, it simplifies the debate, and if it is fair, don't let the opponents' objections sway you.  Stick to your case framework and debate the issues.  Again, don't let the debate degenerate into a dispute over the framework.


At the end of the debate, the judge will evaluate the positions advocated and determine a winner.  For most judges that evaluation will require a "weighing" of the positions against some kind of standard.  Given nothing else upon which to evaluate, a judge may simply decide to defer to standards of style and give the debate to the best speakers.  Since, more than likely, you don't want this happen to you, at some point you must provide the judge a mechanism for decision and in a well-framed debate you will have been doing this all along since the opening speech and not merely as a KVI in the final focus.

One of the key complaints I hear from debaters are criticisms of mom and pop judges who lack experience and often judge on criteria which seem inconsistent with the arguments delivered in the round.  Using the techniques presented in this article may help you, help the judge by presenting in the clearest terms possible, the criteria and standards which can be used to determine the winner, hopefully, the correct winner.  Here are my guidelines for using a framework:
  • Simplify - avoid complex standards and chains of links.
  • Focus - stick close the framework when building, attacking and defending
  • Objectify - choose standards which are measurable and realistic for judges

Monday, January 28, 2013

Framework in Public Forum Debate - part 1

This is part one of a two-part series on Frameworks in Public Forum debate.
(Part 2 click here).

The Judge's Weighing Mechanism

Very simply put, a framework in academic debate is the set of standards the judge will use to evaluate a case.  It is the judge's duty to listen to both sides of the debate and determine a winner.  The judge will either use criteria you provide or her own or a combination of standards.  When we say "standards" we refer to something that is deemed true or accurate.  For example, when weighing an item on a balance beam, the unknown weight is placed in one tray, then known weights are placed in the other tray until balance is achieved.  The known weights, are "standards" and so we can declare the unknown weight because we trust the standards are accurate.  In academic debate, the judge will evaluate the truthfulness or accuracy of a claim based either on known facts (those the judge knows to be true by experience) or based on criteria revealed in the debate.  For example, you may make a claim the judge knows nothing about, say, herds of cattle contribute to global warming. The opponent may claim the impact of cattle is insignificant.  How does the judge decide which is accurate without a standard upon which to base the decision?  If neither debater provides a standard, the judge will try to evaluate things such as the source or timeliness of the data.  More than likely though, the judge will simply dismiss the offsetting claims and defer to a higher standard such as, "well, the Pro's other claims seem accurate so this one about cattle probably is as well".  You need to understand, the judge will fulfill her duty and make a decision and to do so she will go through a series of evaluations, weighing the claims.  In most cases, it is to your advantage as a debater to give the judge the standards of measure rather than having her apply her own or worse yet, applying standards given by your opponent.  How the judge uses these standards, that is, yours or her own, is a function of the judging paradigm and in practically every round is a huge unknown (unless you know the judge very well).  Therefore, it is to your best interest to ensure the standards used are the one's which favor your case.

Framework Definition and Context

For the purposes of this discussion I shall define framework as a set of beliefs and standards and we shall apply these beliefs and standards to the context of the debate case.  I think it is important to narrow the scope since we are not trying to establish a worldview.  These are not necessarily standards by which we want to live our lives and they may not be beliefs we hold outside of the context of the debate round.  The framework is merely a set of standards you wish to apply for the twelve minutes (minus cross-fires) you are arguing your case.  Nevertheless, it is to your best interests to ensure your framework does not contradict the judges overall worldview too much or you run the risk of alienating your position.  I shall expand upon this throughout the discussion.

Types of Frameworks

Expanding any previous discussion I have made about framework in other parts of the website, I hold there are three kinds of framework in Public Forum Debate: the Rules-based/theoretical, the Interpretive and the Comparative frameworks.  Each of these are aimed toward giving the judge a means to evaluate the round.  Typically a particular framework, which may be a combination of any of these, is established in the constructive speech by explicitly telling the judge which standards to apply in her evaluation.  Some teams will do this upfront in the form of observations.  Even if you do not create your framework as observations, it is best to explicitly state it somewhere in the speech early and often since you want it to stand as the principle basis for how your case should be judged.  The only framework not explicitly stated is the rules-based framework which, with only a few exceptions, are implicit within the context of a Public Forum round.

Rules-Based Framework

The rules and theories of Public Forum Debate are almost never mentioned in the debate constructive speech since, for the time being, the rules and theoretical standards are clear for the most part.  There is a sort of presumptive framework which is built upon National Forensic League rules for the category.  For example, it is established by rule that Pro and Con shall establish a position of advocacy, which means there is no presumption of victory.  If for some reason it is not clear that, say, Con must advocate a position as opposed to merely refute the Pro side, then it may be necessary to establish a rule-based framework which lets the judge know she should favor the side side which sets up an offensive position rather than only a defensive position.  These kinds of frameworks are rarely needed so there should be a presumption by the debaters there is no need to state within the body of the constructive that the other side has a burden of proof.  Nevertheless, there are times, and hopefully they are rare, when the debate may take place entirely on your side of the flow.  For example, you give your speech, the opponent gets up and attacks your speech for four minutes and for the remainder of the debate the attacks and rebuttals remain on your side since the opponent never gave you anything to attack on the other side.  Under these circumstances it may be to your best interests to invoke a rule-based framework as a key voting issue and say something like, "our side has won this debate because our opponents have not established a position for us to attack.  Seeing how they have spent the entire debate attacking our position proves they have no grounds of their own upon which to stand." or something like, "our opponents have chosen to attack our position throughout this debate without establishing any position for us to attack.  This violates the NFL rules and should be reason enough for you to vote [pro/con] but even if you disagree then we win this debate because...".  In each example statement, you give the judge a standard by which to evaluate the round.  However, the second example is better because you are allowing the judge an alternative way to evaluate in case the judge does believe the other side held a legitimate position.

Another area where rules-based weighing mechanisms may be used, is in the rules of evidence.  Depending on where you debate there may be different ideas about the revealing of sources or evidence in the round.  For example, one side makes a claim and the other asks to "see the evidence".  In some places and in accordance with NFL rules it is enough to give the citation, in other districts the evidence must be shown which means a copy of the actual article or paper in context must be handed-over to the requesting team.
Additionally, the rules of evidence are often vague regarding the timeliness of when the evidence must be shown; whether immediately, during the requesting team's prep time, before the final speech, etc.  In those districts which hold that evidence must be shown if requested, there is often ambiguity about which position the judge should take if the evidence is not handed-over or not done so at the appropriate time.  Should the judge, reject the evidence, vote against the offending team or merely note the infraction but not make it a key voting issue?  If the local rules of evidence are well established the team which notes the violation should claim the infraction as a violation of the implicit rule-based framework.  Nevertheless, like in the example above, it is a good idea to give the judge alternative reasons to vote for your side.

Finally with regard to rules-based frameworks, whereas I think it is usually never necessary to establish an explicit rule-based framework in Public Forum debate there is a notable exception I have been seeing which is driven by the nature of some of the resolutions being debated.  Occasionally, I have seen examples where debaters are explicitly invoking the rule prohibiting advocacy of "plans".  Usually this framework is established as an observation in the constructive and may state something like, "Observation 1: while we will advocate the United States should [meet some resolutional requirement] we are not required to advocate a particular plan for doing so.  We will, however, prove the feasibility of our position by certain examples."

The Interpretive Framework

One the first things that should be done prior to debating any resolution is undertake a thorough analysis of the resolution, specifically how to interpret its intent and what is the stasis point (the point at which the two sides of the debate separate).  Your interpretation of the resolution likely forms a framework around which you will build your case and so it is reasonable you should try to convey that framework to the judge.  On one level, your approach to establishing the interpretive framework is define each of the words in the resolution then restate the resolution based upon the interpretation of those words.  Going through that exercise often narrows the scope of the debate to a specific interpretation which is then expressed in the constructive speeches.  That does not mean you must define each word for the judge and certainly does not mean you must restate the resolution in different wording.  All you need in the case is to define your approach based upon what your team believes is the reason for the debate.  It sort of answers the question, "what does the resolution want us to debate?"

When stating the interpretive framework a team will declare something like: "we believe this resolution is asking us to advocate [some position] and the other side to advocate [the other position].  The team which best meets those burdens will win this debate..."  There are potential traps in these kinds of frameworks which must be avoided.  The framework must allow debate on both sides.  It is bad form to create a tautological interpretation or a kind of unopposable truism which preempts any possible position by the opposition.  An example of a tautological framework for the resolution, "Use of unmanned drones should not be used in the war on terror" would be to define unmanned drones as an illegal weapon.  While it may sound favorable to frame the case as "illegal weapons should not be used in the war on terror" it creates a logical fallacy for the opposition which is forced to defend that "illegal weapons should be used to fight terror".  The opposition, if they are smart, will reject your framework in favor of one of their own and thus the ability of the judge to favor your framework is compromised.  Hopefully you can see from this example the idea is not to establish a framework which ties the opponents hands.  The idea is to a create a framework the judge will favor over any other.

Since either side is free to define the resolution there is the possibility that clashing interpretations will arise.  This happens quite often when one wishes to define a certain term in a way which is restrictive to the opposition and so the opponent will offer a counter-interpretation.  Think about the judge's possible responses to the counter-interpretation.  It is not enough to merely offer another interpretation.  One must also give the judge a reason why the interpretation should be preferred.  Commonly, preference is given to interpretations which promote fairness by allowing a better division of ground and promote a better educational experience, but even better is when one can offer an evidential or logical rationale as to why the interpretation should be preferred.  For example, an interpretation from an authoritative body is often preferable to a dictionary depending on the resolutional context.

Finally, since the interpretive framework establishes an approach to the resolution and presents evaluative positions to the judge, there is another very critical kind of evaluation that is sometimes required and is often overlooked.  For each resolution, no matter what side you are advocating you should ask yourself, not only what must I defend but to which degree must I defend it?  Must my position (and my opponents') be true always or true most of the time?  What exceptions can be made and which exceptions cannot be tolerated?  Your interpretive framework should explicitly answer these questions.

In the second part of this series, I will discuss the comparative framework and then present techniques for setting up and using a framework in PF debate cases.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PF March 2013 - Potential Topics

Open for voting by NFL coaches:

The TOPIC AREA for the month of March is, "Health Care." The two resolutions from which advisors may choose are as follows:

Resolved: The U.S. government should not require its citizens to have health insurance.

Resolved: The benefits of increasing the use of involuntary commitment for individuals with a serious mental illness outweigh the costs.

Ugh. Preliminary comments...
The first resolution is one of those inverse Pro topics which only serve to confuse judges since the Pro advocates a negative position.  It could have just as easily said, the US should require health insurance and would not have changed the debate one bit.  I guess it needed to be worded this way because a form of national health insurance now exists in the status quo.  Oh, but wait...this resolution does not specify government provided health care so...I obviously need to think this one out more.

As for number two, let's see....forced institutionalization versus non-forced institutionalization because of cost?  So, in other words, rather than debate the ethics of forcing the so-called mentally ill into institutions we will just assume its okay as long as it doesn't cost too much.  Again, I say, ugh.

I personally want nothing to do with either of these topics but since the second is so hideous, that leaves number one by default, not by choice.

That's my opinion.  Say or vote what you want.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

PF February 2013 - China Con Positon

This analysis of the February 2013 PF debate topic, "On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States." begins here with definitions.


The Con position may be preferred by many debaters since there seems to be an undercurrent of distrust and suspicion of Chinese intentions.  Much of this was exploited during the recent U.S. presidential campaigns as politicians called for tough stands against perceived unfair practices or threats from China.  The Pro team in this debate will be trying to reverse that perception.  To be sure, Pro does have a substantial burden since they must prove the benefits resulting from the rise of China outweigh the harms.  Personally, I can see huge advantages for the Con if they can project the idea that even the slightest chance for disastrous consequences may result.  Such a threat, if it is significant enough, will tend to discourage judge enthusiasm for the Pro position.  Therefore, while I will discuss particular contentions and present some good arguments and evidence, I would also like to talk about...

Con Strategies

The Con side does not have to show any direct harms arising for the US relationship with China in the status-quo, even though I am certain there is evidence for many.  If the Con can show there is potential for harms to US interests it is sufficient to meet the Con burden.  Con must take care nevertheless.  The threats or harms or whatever basis Con chooses to demonstrate a lack of beneficial results need to be a direct result of the rise of China and not merely a difference in political ideologies.  I think, Con must define the term "beneficial".  What exactly does beneficial mean and how is it measured?  Perhaps Con does not need to prove any harms whatsoever if they can prove the rise of China is basically neutral to US interests according to how one interprets "beneficial".  Pro will likely make some attempt to convince the judge that the rise of China is a win-win situation which basically claims that both sides benefit.  But Con can gain leverage by framing mutual cooperation as a zero-sum game in which one's gains represents the other's loss and the sum of gains and losses is zero.  This is not hard to do considering that much of the dispute between the US and China which threatens stability will center around the world's limited resources.  When it comes to consuming resources there is no win-win.

Con Positions

Con researchers will have little problem deriving contentions and finding evidence to support them.  Below are just a few at your disposal.

The Strategic Threat
There are many possible threats and disadvantages which can be realized in the rise of China (or any country for that matter).  China's geographic location gives it particular advantage over other possible contenders for world dominance.  As I have stated in previous parts of the analysis, control of the waters and shipping lanes in the South China Sea are critical to the continued survival of the Chinese economy.  Therefore, China is taking steps to secure the region for its own advantage.  However, since a huge percentage of the world's resources also depend on those shipping lanes, the United States, European Union and allies all have a strategic interest in ensuring the continued flow of goods and will not tolerate the possibility that a local powerhouse like China may threaten world commerce.

Cronin et al (2012):
China is impelled forward from its continental land mass out into the South China Sea by geography, history, resources and a clear desire to control its own vital SLOCs – sea lines that are subject to major vulnerability in the narrow Malacca Strait, as well as in the other South China Sea chokepoints of the Lombok, Makassar and Sunda Straits. In fact, if the Malacca Strait were closed for just one day, the disruption in energy supplies might cause social unrest in China, according to a well-placed officer of the People’s Liberation Army. The vulnerability of the Malacca Strait to disruption makes China interested in alternative land routes for transporting energy and other goods.

China’s rapid rise to the point where a blue-water navy is becoming possible is creating tremendous uncertainty about future order in East Asia. America’s strategy going back to World War I, and especially during the Cold War, focused on preventing any single power from dominating the Eurasian land mass. However, as economic and military power has shifted from the western to the eastern extremity of Eurasia – witness the Euro crisis and the implosion of European defense budgets – a more formidable China will inevitably seek to express its nationalism, historic rights and economic and resource needs through growing naval power. China’s naval power, in turn, can easily be clustered in the South China Sea, at the confluence of the Pacific and Indian oceans. China is also fixated on building a blue-water navy to help safeguard its SLOCs all the way around the navigable seaboard of Eurasia to the Horn of Africa. It will be impossible to separate China’s desire to achieve sea control over the SLOCs from a threat to open navigation.
[SLOC = Sea Lines of Communication]

China's claims in the South China Sea are expansionist
Cronin et al (2012):
Different states justify their claims to maritime rights in different ways. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei assert their claims from their coasts. Indonesia asserts maritime rights from Natuna Island. China, however, bases its maritime rights on its claims to sovereignty over disputed island groups, such as the Spratlys, in addition to the coast of the Chinese mainland. Yet most (but not all) of the features in the Spratlys would not qualify as islands under Article 121(3) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and thus cannot serve as the basis for a claim to an EEZ or extended continental shelf. As a result, many observers view China’s EEZ claim as expansive because it covers a larger area of maritime rights than other littoral states and as illegitimate because part of the claim appears to be based on land features that would not qualify as islands under Article 121(3). Moreover, the “nine-dashed line” that appears on Chinese maps of the region creates further ambiguity because, as Ian Storey argues elsewhere in this volume, the Chinese government has never defined what this line represents.
[littoral = a zone which borders the sea or water]
[EEZ = exclusive economic zone]

Intellectual Property Theft
The theft of intellectual property rights has long been a problem and is not necessarily unique to the rise of China.  However, evidence will show that since the rise of China, IPR theft has risen sharply.  IPR theft poses a serious economic threat to U.S. interests by depriving corporations, artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors compensation they deserve and expect.  One level, this involves corporate espionage and reverse engineering.  Hackers, who steal corporate secrets and intellectual property have been directly traced to sources inside China or stolen technology and know-how eventually finds a home in China.  This also takes the form of counterfeiting products such as recordings, luxury goods, clothing, phones, and a myriad of technological items.

IPR Center (2011):
...Offenders in China pose the greatest threat to United States interests in terms of the variety of products infringed, the types of threats posed (economic, health and safety, and national security), and the volume of infringing goods produced there. The majority of infringing goods seized by CBP and ICE originated in China. Offenders in China are also the primary foreign threat for theft of trade secrets from United States rights holders.
China‘s push for domestic innovation in science and technology appears to be fueling greater appropriation of other country‘s IP. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (China Commission) has cautioned that China‘s approach to faster development of sophisticated technology has included the ―aggressive use of industrial espionage.‖ As the globalization and growth of multinational corporations and organizations blurs the distinction between government and commerce, it is difficult to distinguish between foreign-based corporate spying and state-sponsored espionage. Although most observers consider China‘s laws generally adequate for protection of IPR, they believe China‘s enforcement efforts are inadequate. Despite some evidence of improvement in this regard, the threat continues unabated.

United States CBP and ICE seizure statistics consistently indicate China is the source country for the majority of goods seized. In 2010, 66 percent of the domestic value of CBP and ICE‘s seizures involved goods that originated in China...Of the counterfeit goods posing a health and safety risk seized by CBP and ICE in 2009, 62 percent were shipped to the United States from China.343 Offenders in China, along with India, produce the overwhelming majority of the counterfeit drugs manufactured worldwide each year. Based on domestic value, 60 percent of the counterfeit pharmaceuticals CBP and ICE seized in 2009 originated from China. This percentage may be larger because some pharmaceuticals are shipped to India, where intermediaries may label or repackage the products before shipping them to consumers in the United States...IIPA estimated 90 percent of the music and movie copies in China are pirated. It further estimated losses from physical music piracy in 2009 in China were $466.3 million. There is a thriving trade in counterfeit optical discs, which most often are sold in small retail shops. The RIAA estimates plants in China have the capacity to produce 4.8 billion CDs a year.
According to the IIPA, in 2009 United States software publishers suffered nearly $3.1 billion in trade losses from piracy in China. BSA estimates approximately 79 percent of the business software used in China is pirated.

And related to IPR theft is the potential threat posed by certain high-tech devices made in China.

Pennington (2012):
American companies should avoid doing business with China's two leading technology firms because they pose a national security threat to the United States, the House Intelligence Committee is warning in a report to be issued Monday.
The panel says U.S. regulators should block mergers and acquisitions in this country by Huawei Technologies and ZTE, among the world's leading suppliers of telecommunications gear and mobile phones.
Reflecting U.S. concern over cyber-attacks traced to China, the report also recommends that U.S. government computer systems not include any components from the two firms because that could pose an espionage risk.
"China has the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes," the report says...In justifying its scrutiny of the Chinese companies, the committee contended that Chinese intelligence services, as well as private companies and other entities, often recruit those with direct access to corporate networks to steal trade secrets and other sensitive proprietary data.
It warned that malicious hardware or software implants in Chinese-manufactured telecommunications components and systems headed for U.S. customers could allow Beijing to shut down or degrade critical national security systems in a time of crisis or war.

The Soft-Power Threat
Unlike hard-power which is seen in the form of weapons and armies and such; soft-power is another tool for expanding a nation's hegemony through influence.  For some time, China has been building alliances with nations in the developing world by investing in infrastructure and development projects.  These developing nations view China's investments and interest favorably which allows China opportunity to leverage its position under terms favorable to China.  This expanding influence undermines US presence in the developing world.

Chinese soft-power may be its path to regional dominance.
Cronin et al (2012):
Few believe that China seeks conflict. Indeed, the opposite appears to be the case. China probably prefers an indirect approach and may wish for influence without ever resorting to brute force. If China can tip the balance of power in its favor, it can increasingly dominate its smaller neighbors while incrementally nudging the U.S. Navy further and further out behind the Western Pacific’s first island chain. Experts on the region describe this as Finlandization. This term is defined by its ambiguity: The Soviet Union’s dominance of Finland’s foreign policy during the Cold War was generally not overt. Yet Finland knew there were lines it could not cross, and thus its sovereignty was demonstrably compromised. This is exactly what Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines fear. Taiwan, at the South China Sea’s northern extremity, may already be in stages of Finlandization, with 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles focused on it from the Chinese mainland, even as hundreds of commercial flights per week link it with China.

Wagner (2012):
Now the world’s second largest economy, China is on the move in Africa, employing a wide range of soft power initiatives to secure inf luence, trade, and—most critically—the energy and mineral resources the Communist Party needs to continue the astonishing economic growth that undergirds its legitimacy. Awash with cash, the Chinese are investing in extensive infrastructure projects; spending billions on oil, copper, and cocoa-secured loans to African nations; contributing to peacekeeping operations6 in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia; and spreading Chinese culture across the continent. Although Beijing’s African courtship is not new, the intensity of its recent drive is, which raises the question: are China’s soft power offensive and its scramble for natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa a threat to U.S. interests?...China poses a genuine threat to U.S. interests in Africa. Business displacement, worker abuse, environmental degradation, and attempts to secure Africa’s resource wealth while the benefits related to those resources fail to reach local populations are potentially destabilizing and a cause for concern. China’s penchant for dealing with often-corrupt governmental elites while ensuring preferential resources-for-infrastructure exchanges can undermine Western attempts to leverage aid to promote governmental reform, democratic principles, and human rights. Such contracts can also increase competition for the oil and minerals the United States needs by taking these resources out of the transparent bidding process and tying them to China for the duration of the long-term contracts Beijing typically employs. Political agreements that supersede the market—including accusations that China is not above substantial bribery to secure favorable contracts or taking deliberate losses on resource investments in order to ensure access—make U.S. firms less competitive and diminish U.S. influence. Further, the fact that the head of China’s influential Shanghai Institute for Strategic Studies has recommended that China work with African nations to lead a new world order to counter "some powerful nations [that] continue to dominate the world" sounds alarm bells in Western ears. Even more sobering is China’s pragmatic and tone-deaf proclivity for bedding down with the world’s most deeply distasteful regimes.

Economic Hard-power
As mentioned, hard-power is typically manifest in the form of military might.  But, money is also an effective weapon and the power of money and the strength of a nation's economy is seen as hard-power.  Recently, China has threatened to use its economic power to take down the Japanese economy.  Granted, the US economy is substantially bigger than Japan's but so is China's share in the US economy.  The mere fact that China would consider such tactics reveals an underlying willingness to use any means at its disposal to achieve its goals.

Evans-Pritchard (2012):
A senior advisor to the Chinese government has called for an attack on the Japanese bond market to precipitate a funding crisis and bring the country to its knees, unless Tokyo reverses its decision to nationalise the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Jin Baisong from the Chinese Academy of International Trade – a branch of the commerce ministry – said China should use its power as Japan’s biggest creditor with $230bn (£141bn) of bonds to “impose sanctions on Japan in the most effective manner” and bring Tokyo’s festering fiscal crisis to a head...Separately, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported that China is drawing up plans to cut off Japan’s supplies of rare earth metals needed for hi-tech industry..Fitch Ratings threatened to downgrade a clutch of Japanese exporters if the clash drags on. It warned that Nissan is heavily at risk with 26pc of its global car sales in China, followed by Honda with 20pc. Sharp and Panasonic both have major exposure. Japan’s exports to China were $74bn in the first half of this year. Bilateral trade reached $345bn last year. Mr Jin said China can afford to sacrifice its “low-value-added” exports to Japan at a small cost. By contrast, Japan relies on Chinese demand to keep its economy afloat and stave off “irreversible” decline.

Putnam (2012):
The consensus view has long been that China wouldn’t take the chance of wholesale selling off its position in U.S. bonds, since it would drive up rates and hurt the value of its remaining position. Still, the fact that this is being raised as an issue shows that such a move is in fact on the table in a dispute.
This matters for the United States because China holds $1.15 trillion of our debt, according to the most recent U.S. Treasury data, which means that it holds more than 20% of all U.S. debt held overseas. This recent article in the Telegraph shows that in any future disputes with the United States, China might not be afraid to engage in saber-rattling with its most dangerous weapon: its influence over U.S. interest rates.
Right now, China’s talk is just that — talk. But the way China handles this situation could provide a clue regarding the extent to which it plans to wield its economic power in the years ahead.


Cooperation from Strength The United States, China and the South China Sea
Maritime Security in the South China Sea and the Competition over Maritime Rights, Center for New American Strategy, January 2012
Patrick M. Cronin and Robert D. Kaplan, et al

Intellectual Property Rights Violations: A Report on Threats to United States Interests at Home and Abroad
National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center
November 2011

U.S. panel: China tech giants pose security threat
MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press October 8, 2012

What Does China’s Threat of a ‘Bond Attack’ on Japan Mean for the U.S.?
The island dispute provides insight into China's thinking
Sep 20, 2012
Daniel Putnam, InvestorPlace Contributor

Beijing hints at bond attack on Japan, The Telegraph, 21 January 2012
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

"Going Out": Is China’s Skillful Use of Soft Power in Sub-Saharan Africa a Threat to U.S. Interests?, Joint Force Quarterly 64 (1st Quarter, January 2012)
JoAnne Wagner

PF February 2013 - China Pro Position

This analysis of the February 2013 PF debate topic, "On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States." begins here with definitions.


This resolution requires debaters to advocate their positions based upon the recognition that the rise of China has advantages and disadvantages for the interests of the United States.  As a result, teams must show, based on some standards of measure, the net benefit is positive (for the Pro) or negative (for the Con).  Additionally, debaters must effectively cut through the media hype and political hysteria which surrounds the topic and present clear and compelling arguments to support their respective positions.  Of course, I must state right now, my opinion is based on a rather idealistic model of debate in which the judging standards are totally objective.  In reality, that will hardly be the case.  Many judges will be presumptive one way or the other and based on popular opinions, I would say more will be biased toward the opinion the rise of China is bad for the U.S.  Unlike the rise of the former Soviet Union, which was viewed as a major military rival; the rise of China not only carries national security concerns but economic concerns as well.

The China Plan

As a background for examining the Pro side we need to understand the goals of the Chinese government.  In 2011, Hu Jintau, President of the People's Republic of China, delivered a speech outlining the five-year plan for the government  This speech, delivered in 2011 is an important public statement of internal national objectives and foreign policy.  I include a portion of the transcript here for your reference when looking at the remainder of this article.

Jintao (2011):
In the next five years, China will make great efforts to implement the strategy of boosting domestic demand, especially consumer demand, and put in place an effective mechanism to unleash consumption potential. We will ensure that consumption, investment and export contribute to economic growth in a coordinated way. We will follow a more proactive opening-up strategy, explore new fields and scope for opening-up, and broaden and deepen our shared interests with other parties. We will bring into play the important role of import in achieving macroeconomic balance and economic restructuring, and promote basic balance of our trade. This will provide important opportunities for countries in Asia and the rest of the world to increase exports to China.

In the next five years, China will make great efforts to pursue the strategy of "going global". We will encourage enterprises of different ownership structures to invest overseas in an orderly manner and carry out cooperation on projects that will improve local infrastructure and people's livelihood. We will make more investments in Asia and the emerging markets, and at the same time give more economic assistance to developing countries in Asia.

In the next five years, China will make great efforts to participate in global economic governance and regional cooperation. We will push for the reform of the global economic and financial systems and the building of a balanced multilateral trade regime that benefits all. We oppose all forms of protectionism and will work for a more just and reasonable global economic order. We will take an active part in 10+1, 10+3, the East Asia Summit and cooperation between China, Japan and the ROK, and promote the steady development of the China-ASEAN FTA. We will step up cooperation with neighboring countries in infrastructural development, including transport, energy pipelines, information and communication technologies and power grids, so as to achieve better connectivity in the region. We will advance exchanges and cooperation with other Asian countries in tourism, culture and education and between the young people to deepen our mutual understanding and friendship.

In the next five years, China will make great efforts to build a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society. We will further implement the basic state policy of resource conservation and environment protection, raise energy efficiency, cut the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions, develop a circular economy, promote wider application of low-carbon technologies, and actively respond to climate change. By doing so, we hope to balance economic and social development with population, resources and the environment, and embark on a path of sustainable development.

The Preemptive Strike

Given the potential biases I briefly mentioned in the introduction to this article, I think a viable strategy will be to frame the Con position as being harmful to U.S. interests.  This strategy will essentially turn the entire Con case in many instances by suggesting that merely claiming the rise in China is harmful fosters an attitude that indeed harms our national interests.

Prime & Garver (2012):
"The rhetoric about China’s faults vis-à-vis the challenges facing the U.S. continues to escalate. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama chose to lead the attack, blaming China for some portion of our woeful economic situation. Mitt Romney retorted that Obama’s tough handling of China is too little, too late, and that he would do the job right. Now that Obama has won the election, we would be smart to redirect our discourse. The U.S. and China have benefited tremendously from their economic interdependence, and from cooperation in the Persian Gulf. China is a country with substantial international clout. It is not a power hostile to the United States. It is often willing to work with America, even when it disagrees with U.S. policy. In administration after administration, American leaders have recognized this fundamental reality and acted accordingly to maintain cooperative relations with China...Bilateral economic relations are also essential to the interests of the U.S. China is now the second largest trading partner of the U.S. and the third largest export market. U.S. exports to China have grown an average of over 13% annually since 2001...Rhetoric aside, the success of many aspects of the United States’ future will depend on how we cooperate with China."

Greis (2005):
"China, it seems, means very different things to different people. Western fears and fantasies about China reveal a great deal about the interests and ideals that shape the American political landscape. They do not, however, teach us much about the real China. Romanticizing and demonizing China, furthermore, dangerously distorts our understanding of Chinese foreign policies. The way that we talk about China influences the ways we interpret and respond to Chinese actions. And the way that we talk about China also influences the way that the Chinese (mis)understand us. Such trans-Pacific muddles help explain how the United States and China came to blows in Korea (1950-1953) and Vietnam (1965-1973). And a conflict over Taiwan remains a real possibility at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Our China policy debate must, therefore, see beyond such distortions to focus on the real China."

Gross (2012):
"Clearly, we need a national debate about U.S. China policy to prevent doing permanent damage to American interests in Asia. We need to rethink our current policy to avoid a new Cold War and to benefit economically from China’s rise so as to strengthen America’s security and prosperity. The best way to overcome the “China threat” and advance U.S. interests in the region is by achieving a stable peace with China through the resolution of outstanding security and economic conflicts between the two countries."

The Economic Advantages

Clearly China's 1.3 billion people represent a significant market opportunity for the U.S. and new and bigger markets are good, especially as a catalyst to kick-start a flagging economy.  But, we must see on the Pro side of the debate, the rise of China and potential US economic benefits are realized over time and we are only now starting to see the first glimpses of the possibilities.  The China labor force, cranking out millions of units of low cost products flooding US and international markets has resulted in an ever-growing middle class of consumers within China as those laborers earn higher and higher salaries.  As seen above, Jintao has stated: "In the next five years, China will make great efforts to implement the strategy of boosting domestic demand, especially consumer demand, and put in place an effective mechanism to unleash consumption potential. We will ensure that consumption, investment and export contribute to economic growth in a coordinated way."  Though the central government has made some moves to limit desire for western consumer goods in favor of domestic goods, the evidence will show, Chinese consumers are more than willing to purchase western materialism to the tune of billions of dollars.  The rising Chinese consumer market is a potentially huge economic advantage for the Pro.

Liu (2012):
As wages rise in China, their workers enter a middle class capable of buying things the United States can export. Customers there create jobs here. Higher demand means American workers can start earning higher wages — wages that enable them to afford those slightly more expensive iPhones. A virtuous cycle. We’re all better off when we’re all better off.
...China’s ascent can be great for America. Competition forces us to make more disciplined choices, to activate more fully our creativity and ability to cultivate and elevate talent from anywhere. This is our secret weapon. No one adapts like the United States.
While some pundits fret over a rising China, Keith Fitz-Gerald, the chief investment strategist for Money Morning, a Baltimore-based investment newsletter, takes the opposite view.
"A powerful China is coming, and we have two choices. Either we're at the table, or we're on the menu," says Fitz-Gerald, who adds that China isn't the enemy. "Good news from China is good news for the U.S.; bad news from the Chinese economy is bad news here."
According to Fitz-Gerald, the rise of China presents a dramatic opportunity for the U.S., especially if it can shift to an export-driven economy.
"Over the next decade, the world is going to have billions more people entering the middle class," Fitz-Gerald says. "The smart companies are already starting to cater to that market."
Mittelstaedt says companies such as McDonalds, Starbucks and Ford have been betting on a Chinese middle class they believe will be large and keen to spend its disposable income. Recently, The Gap announced plans to open 30 stores in China this year, no doubt eager to sell American fashions to a growing Chinese middle class.

Griswold (2007):
I’m bullish on China’s rise. China’s engagement in the global economy is good for people of China, good for Americans, good for the world. While the critics of trade with China mistakenly focus on the alleged harm it causes, they tend to overlook the benefits. Those benefits include lower-priced imports for U.S. consumers and businesses, expanding export opportunities to China, and the economy-wide benefits of Chinese capital flowing to the United States.
Those imports allow Americans to stretch their paychecks further, raising real wages for millions of workers. Money saved because of lower prices for Chinese imports allows U.S. consumers to spend more on other, non-Chinese goods and services, including those produced in the United States. Those savings are especially important for low- and middle-income American families who spend a relatively larger share of their budgets on the discount-store shoes, clothing and other products made in China.
American producers and workers have gained tremendously from growing export opportunities to China. China’s fixed currency has allegedly discouraged exports to China, but that is not supported by the trade numbers.
Since 2000, U.S. exports of goods to China have increased by 158 percent, from $16.2 billion to $41.8 billion in 2005. The rate of growth of U.S. exports to China since 2000 is more than 12 times the rate of growth of U.S. exports to the rest of the world other than China during the same period. 


Disarming the Chinese "Military Threat"

There is dispute in southeast Asia and China is a key player in the region.  Besides the strategic importance of international shipping in the region, the seas around the region are rich in much needed resources.

Jegarajah (2012):
While Asia's two largest economies shadow-box in the East China Sea, unresolved territorial claims in resources-rich waters immediately south are complicating oil and gas developments aimed at meeting the region's rising energy needs.
China and five other countries – Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia – claim ownership to all or parts of the strategically-vital South China Sea, which provides 10 percent of the global fisheries catch and carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade, equivalent to half the world's shipping tonnage.
"With Asia's growing appetite for oil and natural gas in deepwater areas, tensions have recently intensified between China and its neighbors Vietnam and the Philippines," said HSBC analysts led by Thomas Hilboldt, Asia-Pacific Head of Oil, Gas & Petrochemicals Research, in a report on September 14.

A regional conflict in the region would have dire consequences on global trade and US interests in particular.  Key US allies are in the region who enjoy the protection of the US and any outbreak of hostilities would threaten wider involvement as nations move to protect western interests. Despite the potential for growing struggles in the region, the US does well to temper its perception of China as a world power with global reach.

Larsen (2011):
"...we have to deal with China. If our political and strategic approach is to demonize it, we risk a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Chinese are not infallible, all-powerful, or malevolent. China is a normal rising power with unique historical legacies, and we must seek engagement rather than vilification. The United States should not approach engagement with trepidation. China has significant domestic constraints that will limit its development as a global military power. China is more likely to be a regional military power; therefore, it will be neither adversary nor partner"

Rosemount (2008):
"China’s unprecedented industrial growth over the last two decades has raised the question of whether it now poses a threat to the security of the United States economically, militarily, or both. Economically, the extent to which China truly threatens the United States depends at least in part on the chauvinistic assumption that any potential challenge to absolute U.S. global economic dominance is threatening. On the military question, the answer is much clearer. China is not a military threat to the United States...A reduction of U.S. threats to the world ... would decrease the likelihood of confrontation with China as well as undercut any rationale for China’s own increased military spending. Such a shift in U.S. national security strategy would not only increase the security of China and the United States but the world as well."

The Pro Position

While I think Pro will have their work cut out for them, the Pro case can be effective in convincing judges there are good reasons to believe the rise in China is a benefit to US interests, especially the myriad of economic interests fueled by China's growing consumerism.  Overcoming bias will be a burden for the Pro team. For this reason, I have suggested Pro include some type of preemptive positions to characterize the Con case as fundamentally harmful to US interests.  The rise of China is not a concluded event and to be sure, it is far too early to fully understand what impacts are on the horizon.  Both sides will be forced to deal with speculations, hypotheticals and well-reasoned opinions.  Pro can look at Japan, Korea and in some respects, Vietnam as examples of how US-Asian cooperation benefits the interests of the US despite past wars.  The fact we have never had a direct war with China only adds to the possibility of favorable outcomes arising from increased economic engagement.
I expect Con will try to advocate three primary arguments:
  1. China will tank the US economy
  2. China expansionism will result in war
  3. China will damage the world's environment (or some such)

Of course Pro will need answers to these contentions and it will not be hard to find.  While the rise of China's economy can represent enormous market potential for the US, the US is restricted by internal political policies which may ultimately prove more damaging than any direct impact from the rise of China.  As the US policy continues to send mixed signals, evidence will show the developing world is looking more and more to China as a stable economy which only serves to increase Chinese economic clout in the world.  Pro can exploit this fact by arguing any failure of the US economic position in the world will be our own doing, leaving China poised to fill the gap left by our collapse.  Pro teams can use the same strategy for most of the Con positions and assert that most harms perceived as a consequence of China's rise are really the outcome of our own collapse or failings to leverage advantages.

The Policy Debate War Hammer

I truly believe that because Policy Debate teams have been running China disadvantages for so long, a wealth of evidence will be pulled out and used in Public Forum debate.  Much of this evidence will point to the war scenarios arising from anticipated collapse of US regional hegemony in the Far East.  Some of it asserts Chinese expansionism as a catalyst for war.  There is a sizable body of literature to support the contention that Chinese expansionism is a myth.  US military strength is unmatched and by most accounts China is several decades from being close to matching it.  If the use of policy evidence becomes an issue, realize that like Public Forum debate, Policy carries evidence for both Aff and Neg and so answers can be found which offset these kinds of claims.

Enough for now.

Next I will address the Con position.

China Research Center, 2012: Vol. 11, No. 2, Commentary: Demonization of China Puts U.S. Interests in Jeopardy
Penelope Prime and John Garver

Henry Rosemont, "Is China a Threat?" (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, February 6, 2008)
Henry Rosemont, Jr., a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org), is distinguished professor emeritus at St. Mary's College of Maryland and a visiting scholar in the Religious Studies department at Brown University.

U.S.-China Relations: No Need to Fight, National Defense University, Joint Force Quarterly, JFQ 63 (4th Quarter, October 2011)
By Daniel S. Larsen
China’s New Nationalism, Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy, ISBN: 9780520244825, July 2005
Peter Hays Gries

Monday, Oct 22, 2012 03:30 PM EDT
Quit bashing Beijing — China’s rise is good for America , Blaming the rising power for our troubles is dangerous and just plain dumb: The U.S. needs a strong China
By Donald Gross
Donald Gross is a former White House and State Department official

Towards Common Development and a Harmonious Asia
Speech by H.E. Hu Jintao President of the People's Republic of China At Opening Plenary of Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2011, 15 April 2011

Why China’s Rise Is Great for America, Time Magazine (online version)
By Eric Liu, Feb. 22, 2012
Eric Liu is an author, educator and civic entrepreneur. Liu served as a White House speechwriter and the deputy domestic-policy adviser to President Clinton.

How China's Economy Influences the U.S., Bankrate.com,
Michael Estrin, 2012

The Competition for World Resources: China’s Demand for Commodities, CATO Institute
By Daniel Griswold, February 8, 2007, Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies

International Relations Theory and China’s Rise: Assessing China’s Potential for Territorial Expansion,International Studies Review (2010) 12, 505-532
M. Taylor Fravel
Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Monday, January 14, 2013

PF February 2013 - U.S. Interests

This analysis of the February 2013 PF debate topic, "On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States." begins here with definitions.

The Pivot (Current US Policy)

Since Obama has taken office, the State Department has been shifting the policy focus from North Africa and the Middle East toward the Far East region (known as "the pivot").  This shift has been deliberate and orchestrated as a reaction to the coming end of the occupation of Afghanistan and in recognition of growing security threats in southeast Asia and the growing power of China. 

DoD 2012:
"U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will also expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests."
"The maintenance of peace, stability, the free flow of commerce, and of U.S. influence in this dynamic region will depend in part on an underlying balance of military capability and presence. Over the long term, China’’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways. Our two countries have a strong stake in peace and stability in East Asia and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship. However, the growth of China’’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region. The United States will continue to make the necessary investments to ensure that we maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely in keeping with our treaty obligations and with international law.  Working closely with our network of allies and partners, we will continue to promote a rules-based international order that ensures underlying stability and encourages the peaceful rise of new powers, economic dynamism, and constructive defense cooperation."

McCain (2012):
"While it’s wrong to speak of a, quote, “pivot” to Asia, the idea that we must rebalance U.S. foreign policy with an increasing emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, that is undoubtedly correct. The core challenge we face is how to make this rebalancing effort meaningful, for at the moment, amid all of our political and fiscal problems, we run the risk of overpromising and underdelivering on our renewed commitment across the Pacific."

The so-called Obama pivot is deemed necessary to "rebalance" the shift of power and influence in the far east which has become unbalanced by recent events, such as the general rise of China as a strategic power and the successful tests of nuclear weapons in North Korea, to name a few.

U.S. Interests

Generally, U.S. interests are those things the U.S. considers important to its vitality and continued well-being.  U.S. interests fall into two primary categories; security interests, and economic interests.  Given the broad spectrum of items which fall under the umbrella of security and economic interests, we can generally state that U.S. interests have been the same since the late 1780's when the U.S. established its national identity.  Because it is not easy to find specific definitions of U.S. interests, I will post information from two different sources.

Specific to U.S. interests in east Asia, James Przystup of National Defense University offers the following:

Taking into consideration the nearly 225-year history of U.S. engagement with East Asia, this essay defines U.S. interests as the following:
■ Defense of the homeland and U.S. territories and protection of U.S. citizens. Today, U.S. forces are engaged across the Asia-Pacific region dealing with terrorist threats to the United States and its citizens.
■ Access to regional markets. The United States has supported efforts in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to open and secure market access and has promoted efforts to expand trade by creating an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area and by signing free trade agreements with Australia, Singapore, and South Korea.  The U.S. Navy, operating from the West Coast, Hawaii, and bases in Japan and through access agreements with Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries, is positioned to assure freedom of the seas.
■ Maintenance of a balance of power to prevent the rise of any hegemon or group of powers that would impede U.S. political and economic access to the region. The system of bilateral U.S. alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand maintains a stable balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.
■ Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile delivery systems. The United States, along with China, the ROK, Japan, Russia, and North Korea, is engaged in the Six-Party Talks aimed at the denuclearization of North Korea. At the same time, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) enjoys broad support across the region.
■ The promotion of democracy and human rights. For successive U.S. administrations, this has been an enduring element in policy, with notable successes in the Philippines, the ROK, and Taiwan.

In 2000, the Commission on America's national Interests published a paper which provides several lists of U.S. national interests, generally and in key regions.  For a complete list of U.S. interests for this debate and future debates, I recommend all debaters take a copy of this paper.  The following excerpt is a shortened list of U.S. interests related to the far east region.

Summary of US National Interests at Stake

• That the US establish productive relations with China, America's major potential strategic adversary in East Asia.
• That South Korea and Japan survive as free and independent states, and cooperate actively with the US to resolve important global and regional problems.

Extremely Important
• That peace be maintained in the Taiwan Strait and on the Korean Peninsula.
• That China and Japan achieve lasting reconciliation under terms that benefit America.

• That the East Asian countries, including China, continue on the path toward democracy and free markets.
• That East Asian markets grow more open to US goods, services, and investment.
• That a peaceful solution is reached to secondary territorial disputes such as those in the South China Sea or Senkaku Islands.

Amid concerns about the direction that China's rising power may take, together with the unresolved status of Taiwan, tensions with North Korea, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, it is easy to forget how advantageous a position the US enjoys in East Asia. By maintaining approximately 100,000 troops in the region (with much of the cost borne by host nations), the United States today retains low-cost influence that stands in sharp contrast to the Cold War, when it lost nearly 100,000 troops in two major conflicts. A key to US success in Asia is the strength of its alliance system there.

Click here for a link to the Pro Position


Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,
Department of Defense, January 2012

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Defining American Interests in Asia
Senator John McCain, 2012

The United States and the Asia-Pacific Region: National Interests and Strategic Imperatives; Strategic Forum, No. 239
by James J. Przystup, 2009

America's National Interests; The Commission on America's National Interests
July 2000
Lead Authors: Graham T. Allison, Robert Blackwill

PF February 2013 - More on China


This analysis of the February 2013 PF debate topic, "On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States." begins here with definitions.

A Summary of China's Recent History

For a brief history of China, we begin at the World War II era where much of the situation we see today began to emerge.  Virtually all of China had already fallen under communist control in the 1920's.  Japan had tried many times to take-over China and with the rise of Japanese Imperial power in the 1930s,  Japan was expanding its presence in the far east and a China-Japanese war erupted in 1937 amid reports of atrocities by the invading Japanese troops.  When Japan was defeated by the Allies in 1945, the Japanese were forced to withdraw and the Chinese government emerged as a strong military power but was economically weak.  The communist government continued to deal with internal unrest and strife until 1949 when Mao Zedong became leader of Communist China. A huge group of refugees under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland for the island of Formosa (now called Taiwan).  This move eliminated most of the resistance to the communist government though some factions continued to harass the central government.  Mainland China made several attempts to forcibly take control of Taiwan which was armed and protected by the US.  Though never fully trusting of the US, Chaing controlled Taiwan and help expand the economic importance of the island until his death in 1975.  Today, fully dependent upon western military might for its survival, Taiwan is considered an ally of the US.

Mao Zedong, declared the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.  In the late 1950's Mao began a program of modernization and started to industrialize the country.  In 1966 the so-called "Cultural Revolution" was aimed toward eliminating internal forces which resisted the Communist authority. Despite his profound ideological differences with the US and direct support of the North Koreans in the 1950s and North Vietnamese during the US conflict in Vietnam, Mao is considered a great person in many respects due to his efforts to modernize and upgrade China from its feudal agrarian past.  Mao remained leader until his death in 1976.

Since then, China was steadily increased in economic and military power while continuing to assert its claim to Taiwan.  Hong Kong which had been under British control since the 1800s (except when Japan invaded during the second world war) was a thriving commercial center. Under an agreement between Britain and China, control of Hong Kong passed to the Chinese government in 1997.  Today, mainly due to economic trade with the US the Chinese economy is the second largest in the world, after the US.  Chinese military strength is formidable.  With a general population of approximately 1.3 billion people, they are able to muster an estimated 230 million troops.  Additionally they have thousands of military vehicles and war machines as well as a sizable naval presence around the world.  China does have an active space program and have successfully launched a variety of satellites, successfully conducted a manned space flight and are currently planning to land on the moon.  The Chinese unmanned, lunar orbiter Chang'e 1 orbited the moon for over a year. Chang'e 2 has since reached the moon, and then performed a fly-by of asteroid 4179 Toutatis.

China's Regional Strategy

While many believe China's military strength is no match for the US, there is a strategic value to control of seas and air-space in the far east.  Two key US allies, South Korea and Japan are a very short distance from mainland China.  Taiwan, also an important commercial center remains under constant threat of take-over by China.  The South China Sea and the region of southeast Asia is strategic not only because of its proximity to Australia and New Zealand but also because open sea-lanes in the region are vital to the flow of commodities and goods around the world.  These lanes are also vital to the economic well-being of China since any closure of the sea-lanes could harm China's access to needed resources.   The Strait of Malacca linking the Indian and Pacific Ocean is one of the most important in the world since about a third of the world's oil passes through the sea-lane and and through the South China Sea.  Additionally, the region is rich in mineral resources. The growing Islamic influence in the region is viewed as a concern by both the US and China.

China, as a member of the U.N. Security Council has had the ability to block various moves by western powers but they have rarely tried to initiate actions.  Only recently have they begun to exert influence within various Far East associations and blocs:

Baker & Zhang (2012):
"Beijing feared its relatively weak position left it little to gain from multilateral forums and instead put China under the influence of the stronger members. But China's rising economic power has shifted this equation.
China is pursuing more multilateral relationships as a way to secure its interests through the larger groups. China's relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, its participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its pursuit of trilateral summits are all intended to help Beijing shape the policy direction of these blocs. By shifting to the multilateral approach, China can make some of the weaker countries feel more secure and thus prevent them from turning to the United States for support."

To cointinue this analysis with a look at U.S. interests, click here.

Sea Power and the Chinese State: China’s Maritime Ambitions
By Dean Cheng, July 11, 2011

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STRAITS OF MALACCA AND SINGAPORE, Singapore Journal of International and Corporate Law, 1998

The Paradox of China's Naval Strategy, Stratfor Global Intelligence
Rodger Baker and Zhixing Zhang, 2012

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Toward Better Debate - January 2013

Some advice for LD and PF debating the January 2013 resolutions.

Having had the opportunity to judge both LD and PF this weekend, I saw some pretty good debates in both categories.  In the interest of making the debates better, I would like offer my opinions for what they are worth, and hopefully contribute toward making cases stronger and the debates better.  I was fortunate enough to see beginners and experienced in both categories debate these resolutions so I had a good overview of approaches to the topics.

PF Citizens United

One of the keys to excellent PF debate, in my opinion, is to be very knowledgeable of the topic.  In the case of Citizens United (CU), it is important to understand the history which led to the decision.  The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972 and subsequent amendment two years later was aimed toward restricting the influence of wealthy individuals and the so-called McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 attempted to limit indirect attempts to influence elections by independent entities.  Corporations have long had the ability to contribute to campaigns or candidates within restrictions established by the prior legislation.  This means is it incorrect to claim, prior to the CU decision corporations were not allowed to make donations.  It is also important, I think, for debaters to understand the impacts of the McConnell v FEC  and Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.  cases.  These important cases provide a good background of the debate and controversy which culminated with the CU case.

Additionally, debaters need to understand the CU decision thoroughly including the controversies which resulted in a highly divided court. A lot of this debate centers on the right to free speech to be sure and I think debaters did a decent job debating this important issue.  Familiarize yourself with the case and you will find court support for the idea that CU does not unfairly unbalance equality in free speech.

Most importantly, there are some basic misconceptions about what the CU decision did or did not do.  To be sure, there have always been problems in how election campaigns are financed and carried out in the US.  For example, the concern of corruption and even the influence of foreign entities upon candidates.  Nevertheless, it is important to understand the CU ruling was not directed toward those issues, even though one may claim impacts in corruption or foreign influences.  The ruling also does not remove the restrictions upon campaign donations.  The limits on donation remain in full force.  The ruling does not address issues of disclosure as well.  CU DOES remove restrictions on corporations using funds from their general treasuries and permits unlimited independent spending upon electioneering communication.  Nevertheless unlimited, undisclosed funds are not going to candidates nor their campaigns as a direct result of the CU ruling.

Finally, I would like to offer some advice about impacts.  It is very important on both sides of the debate to make impact claims but realize it is simply not enough to mention an effect and think it suffices as an impact.  One may claim, for example, CU has resulted in an explosion of negative campaign ads and may present overwhelming evidence and statistics to back the claim.  Is this an impact? No, it is an observed effect which may or may not have been a direct consequence of the decision.  To make it an impact, one needs to explain why the flood of negative campaign ads are bad.  How does this harm the election process?  If one claims CU has effected voter turn-out why does this harm the election process?  An impact tells me, why I as a judge, should care.

LD Rehab and Retribution

I have been listening to the LD cases on evaluating rehab versus retribution for two weeks now, and have seen some pretty good fundamental debate.  The majority of cases are tending to be oriented toward real-world examples and analysis which cite recidivism and deterrence statistics.  The Norway penal system is proving to be a persistent example of the potential of rehabilitative systems.  These cases are for the most part, easy to judge.  I have picked up ballots on both sides of the issue more or less equally.  For these cases, one sees justice, morality and societal welfare as values.  Additionally, I have seen justice versus justice and morality versus morality more times than I expected.

One of the biggest issues I am seeing lies on the philosophical side of the debate. I am hardly an expert on philosophy and I suspect neither are the majority of high-school debaters and LD judges.  However, I and a majority of experienced LD judges do have a pretty good understanding of deontological and utilitarian principles.  We also understand the social contract and the duties of governments (well, democratic governments I suppose).  Debates which address these concepts go pretty well but I do see a big tendency to mix utilitarian and deontological principles within cases and this is when things get confusing.  Understand your philosophical framework.  I know many debaters will say the value and value criterion is the case framework but really the value and criterion are often supported by an underlying case framework.  For example, a debater on the Aff may choose a value of justice defined as giving each his due, a criterion of advancing the common good.  The case may then explain how the rehabilitation of criminals benefits citizens by allowing reintegration of the individual as a productive member of society.  Would this case be ontological or utilitarian?  I see some confusion in debaters who do not really understand their case frameworks but if you can answer this question about your own case, it may help you to narrow the focus of your debate in a more effective way.

Finally, for you AFF debaters who want to argue how poverty, cultural and environmental factors have contributed to the propensity for criminal acts, that is fine.  I think it is a very good position to take and there is lots of evidence to support the idea.  Still, do yourselves a favor and do not suggest nor allow yourselves to be trapped into any kind of suggestion that rehabilitation will solve those issues.  It will not.  In every bad circumstance, there are individuals who react to their situation by making bad decisions and those who do not make bad decisions.  The idea behind rehab is assist individuals in bad situations to make good decisions.  It does not change the external influences, it only changes the internal ability to deal with the influences; at least in theory.

Good luck.

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