Month: February 2008

Extemp Questions for the Week of February 27th-March 4th, 2008

1. Is Nader a spoiler?

2. How should the upcoming Iranian parliamentary elections be viewed?

3. Is the idea of a North American Union realistic?

4. What is the legacy of Fidel Castro?

5. How should Medicaid be reformed?

6. Is the WTO finally getting tough on China?

7. Can Al Gore unify a fractured Democratic party?

8. Is the world ignoring drug resistant TB at its peril?

9. How should the U.S. war on drugs be changed?

10. Should there be public financing of all U.S. election campaigns?

Topic Brief: Castro Leaves


Viva Revolution!  It is the end of an era in Cuba. Fidel Castro has stepped down as leader of the island.  Fidel Castro had ruled the island since he led a Socialist revolution to overthrow the dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.  Batista had opened the island to US business – especially casinos. However, when Castro took power, he forced the companies to sell their assets to the government at extremely low prices.  The companies saw this as theft, though the pries they were offered were the values they had set on their businesses to avoid Cuban taxes.  Castro originally denied any ties to Communism and set up a meeting with president Eisenhower.  However, when the US snubbed his diplomatic envoy – mainly because the country had lost a fortune when he took over, Castro turned to the Soviet Union to support his new government.  Considering his status as a Socialist and ally to the USSR has led to an US embargo on the island since 1962.  On February 24, 2008, he handed the presidency to his brother Raul.  Considering this change will affect Cuba, US foreign policy, and international leftist politics, it is certainly worthy of a little extemp examination.

Extemp Questions for the Week of February 20th-26th, 2008

1. Should the U.S. have recognized Kosovo’s independence?

2. Is Myanmar’s plan for constitutional reform a farce?

3. If you were Obama’s campaign manager, how do you deliver a knockout blow to the Clinton campaign?

4. Has Ukraine become the battleground of a new Cold War?

5. Who won the Hollywood writers strike?

6. What does Fidel Castro’s resignation mean for Cuba’s immediate future?

7. After losing $722 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, what’s next for GM?

8. What has President Bush’s Africa trip accomplished?

9. Should the Church of England be disestablished?

10. How can John McCain endear himself to conservative voters?

Topic Brief: Birth of Kosovo


Happy Independence Day!  This Briefing examines the birth of the world’s newest country – Kosovo.  On Monday, February 18, 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia.  Needless to say, Serbia isn’t happy that parts of its country are running like rats from a sinking ship, so it has enlisted the support of Russia to ensure that Kosovo doesn’t get recognized in the UN or other international bodies.  The implications of this independence, on both Russian relations with the West and separatist movements worldwide, ensures that this topic has the far reaching impacts that will  make it last a long time in extemp – and make a for a more interesting speech.

Extemp Questions for the Week of February 13th-19th, 2008

1. Should Mike Huckabee withdraw from the GOP race?

2. Would it be wise for Hugo Chavez to cut off oil exports to the U.S.?

3. Who is winning the culture wars?

4. How can the Netherlands better integrate its Muslim population?

5. What do Latino voters not like about Barack Obama?

6. Would a stronger African Union create a more stable Africa?

7. Is America doing enough to bridge the literacy gap?

8. Who should John McCain choose as his vice-presidential candidate?

9. Is the press reading too much into the Russian-U.S. military scuffle in the Pacific?

10. Can the federal budget be balanced within the next five years?

Topic Brief: 2008 Kenyan Elections


After a few weeks mired in the mess of American politics, it’s time to return international issues and the mess of politics that is Kenya – long one of the most stable African nations.  Six weeks ago Kenya held a presidential election that was won – albeit questionably – by Mwai Kibaki.  Since that time, ethnic violence has spread throughout the country, with all major ethnic groups against the Kikuyu – the tribe Mr. Kibaki is from.  While international efforts have arisen to try to prevent Kenya from becoming another Sudan, including a special envoy by Kofi Annan, the lack of a united front or response has failed to create enough pressure to end the political disputes that continue the violence.

Extemp Questions for the Week of February 6th-12th, 2008

1. Who was Super Tuesday’s biggest winner?

2. Who was Super Tuesday’s biggest loser?

3. Will Burlesconi be the next Italian prime minister?

4. Should the Internet be more heavily regulated?

5. Were the conclusions of the Israeli inquiry into Israel’s war with Lebanon correct?

6. Who is to blame for the recent outbreak of violence in Chad?

7. Is the world being too silent about China’s human rights abuses in the run up to this summer’s Olympic games?

8. Can NATO afford to lose Afghanistan?

9. How soon will Iran have a nuclear weapon?

10. Does a cost effective alternative energy solution currently exist?

Topic Brief: Super Tuesday 2008


With 24 states having some variety of primary/convention/caucus, Super Tuesday had the potential to be the deciding day of the primaries. On the Republican side, John McCain used the day to gain a decisive lead. However, the Democratic debates stated closely contested – the difference currently between Clinton and Obama built almost entirely on super delegates. As such this brief will try to address both the why of the vote as well as the effect that this vote will have on the general election.

Who Won Where and the Delegate Count:

Topic Brief: China-United States

By Michael Garson

Following the Cold War, extempers were cursed: they could not find a counterpart to American power. Surely the world will be much tougher to explain when it is unipolar! “Luckily”, China has happily fulfilled the role of rising foreign power that is supposedly hell-bent on supplanting the United States as hegemon. With a powerful economy, growing military, and non-European location, China is a dream for extempers. Not just can global events be tied into American power, but now they can be linked to China. Crisis in Africa? China’s fault. Democracy not catching on in Asia? China’s fault. A tree falls in Brazil? China’s fault. Aside from the fun that extempers can have in linking China to any and all speeches, understanding China’s intentions requires a great deal of research, analysis, and luck. Without the bombastic rhetoric that the Soviet Union employed, it can be hard to solve for China. This brief hopefully will provide enough information and possible explanations to give extempers a chance to get a better grasp of Sino-American relations.

This brief aims to examine how China and America interact by providing two hypothetical, and highly popular extemp questions. “Is China anti-American?” and “Can China overtake the United States” will both be examined as questions and answered in the affirmative and negative with three reasons supporting each response. Hopefully, this style of analysis will more closely lend itself to understanding the construction, and destruction, of arguments in an extemp-specific context.

Relations with the United States

Is China anti-American?

This question is largely derived from the politics of fear and a desire to better understand the world. First, the politics of fear are not a purely post-9/11 phenomenon, though President Bush and Rudy Giuliani have perfected it to a science. The basic concept is that you can scare the populace into action. Many nationalists see a country that is rapidly growing and immediately fear the worst: China is coming to take over the world. Therefore, evidence and logic are being pieced together to create a narrative. This story explains that China poses an existential threat to the United States.

Additionally, this question helps policymakers, and extempers, understand the world. Historically, growing powers have insatiable appetites for control. Likewise, they contend that China seeks to emulate the Soviet Union’s rise. The difference here is that China learned from the USSR’s mistake and has used economics. If dollars were used to end the USSR, the yuan could be used to wage war on the United States. Whether or not you believe China is anti-American, it is important to avoid clichéd arguments and faulty parallels. Examine all facts and look at which story of China’s rise makes the most sense.


1. Building alliances

At present, China is significantly weaker than the United States. By any measure

(military, economics, politics, diplomacy, culture), America is light-years ahead of China. Therefore, it would be obvious to the allegedly anti-American Chinese to build an alliance. The United States is not so far ahead of the world that it could withstand a multilateral political assault on its power. China’s economic overtures into the Middle East and South America are completely understandable. China needs oil to fuel its economy and markets to sell to. However, recent months have shown China moving from economic partnerships to political ones. As the amount of “international political conferences” increases, concern should follow. The more countries talk, the more likely they are to air out dirty laundry and attempt to address grievances. Some of those grievances likely include the United States. The main link necessary to make this argument is that China is engaging with the world maliciously. One is hard-pressed to look at political alliances and unequivocally claim that China is attempting to use mid-level powers as pawns to stop the American juggernaut.

2. Using economic power

With underdeveloped and overmatched political power, China’s only chance to

get under America’s skin is in economics. With billions of American dollars in storage, China has shown flashes of malice. Two summers ago China responded to an American tariff on Chinese textiles by removing the export tax. This one act, and myriad other isolated incidents, show that China is not afraid to unleash free-market principles on the world. Despite accusations of dumping, China is only scratching the surface. On a nearly weekly basis, newspapers are reporting about a new Chinese economic venture that threatens American jobs. Anytime China enters the global economic market, it can be interpreted as an overtly provocative act by alarmists.

3. Opposition to US on key issues

It is virtually a given that countries are going to disagree on issues. However,

when China and the United States do not see eye to eye, it is hailed another flashpoint in a growing Cold War. Famously, China has protected North Korea from American pressure and intervention. Support for a poor country led by a dictator with nuclear ambitions certainly seems suspicious on this side of the Pacific. Additionally, China has resolutely supported dictatorships and genocides if it serves the national interest. The Sudanese government has been shielded by China’s desire for oil. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is allowed to be so bombastic and hostile partially due to Chinese support. There are so many disagreements that it could make even the most optimistic of extempers wonder if China is being obstinate. By supporting such unsavory characters, China has made politics exceedingly difficult for the United States.


1. Chinese desire for regional dominance

The underlying principle of China’s supposed anti-Americanism is that somehow

feels wronged. After all, countries would not have conflicts if there were not irreconcilable differences. In the case of China, some will argue that these differences do not exist. The central desire of the United States is security and prosperity at the national level by implementing security and prosperity abroad. One could argue that the United States does not want to control the world, but feels it is necessary.

China offers not a threat, but a solution to this situation. China is willing to take Asia off of the United States’ hands. As will be described later, China wants to implement a tribute-style system in Asia, where major policy decisions in the region run through Beijing.  Though certainly not the most democratic or “American” of countries, China only wants to control its own backyard. To the extent that stabilization of a continent is good, China is simply not anti-American.

2. Has not used power against America

In the world of politics, talk is cheap. It is easy for world leaders to condemn

other countries for running roughshod over international norms and expectations. The big leap is from words to action. Even if we are to accept Chinese rhetoric as decidedly anti-American, which it really has not been, there has been no subsequent action. Sure, China has occasionally sent missiles into the air and repealed export tariffs, but those actions can be declared to be anti-American. China could easily justify all their actions in the past decade under the banners of political unification and economic growth. Using the American judicial system, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. To level the charge of anti-Americanism on a country that has yet to accept the title could have very deep ramifications. To make the argument circular, labeling China anti-American could increase tensions, actually making China anti-American.

3. China needs America

The most obvious reason that China is not anti-American is because it would be

stupid to be. China simply cannot afford to intentionally oppose the United States. As evidenced by the Middle East, the United States do not take kindly to overt opposition. While an invasion of China would range from unfathomably counterintuitive to impossible, the United States could use diplomacy to make life a little tougher. Both countries are powerful to ruin each other (Mutually Assured Destruction theory makes a comeback!), so anger and destructive plans would be unwise.

Aside form the military angle, the United States serves as a key political and

economic asset. The United States currently calls the shots globally and its approval is a prerequisite for power. Influence in the international community with other democratic, industrialized countries would be difficult if the United States did not formally recognize China. Economically, the United States is a huge consumer of Chinese products. China has built an export-driven economy. Despite the recent economic slowdown and upsurge in economic nationalism, the United States has continued with insatiable appetite for foreign products. If China truly was anti-American, they would not continue to sell goods to them. Further, China currently holds a great deal of investments denominated in the American dollar.

Can China overtake the United States?

This type of question is exceedingly popular for policymakers and extemp question-writers. There is something very enticing about the idea of the world shifting from unipolarity. Impacting out of this question can be both fun and easy. Letting the globe be controlled by a communist country would unleash myriad ramifications that would interest even the most disinterested of judges.

The danger is in not defining terms. One of the most overlooked aspects of answering an extemp question is clarifying what exactly is being answered. Without a definition to what the question is alluding to, the next 5 minutes of the speech will be a complete waste of time. Power need not be defined in such literal terms as “Having an economy x times bigger than the 2nd largest or a military that can destroy the next 3 largest combined”. Simply saying in the introduction that “overtake” means being the most powerful is also not enough. Defining “most powerful” as the country that has the power to push its agenda the farthest would be sufficient. Though it makes answering the question and linking points to the answer harder, clarifying terms early gives the speech clarity, coherence, and a direction. Otherwise, a speech is 7 minutes of vagaries and incomplete arguments.


1. Economy will eventually surpass America’s

It would be pointless for this brief to trot out dozens of studies, charts, and graphs that determine precisely when China’s economy will be larger than that of the United States. An extemper can find out that information after spending a few minutes on Google. It is not the date of the change, but the seeming inevitability of it that scares American policymakers.  As noted in the previous brief of globalization, the significance of economics in global power is larger now than ever before. The ability to buy and sell alliances on the open political market has become commonplace. With double-digit growth, China does not even have to sustain its current growth rate to pass the United States. As America’s economy slumps due to high commodity prices, bad investments, and increased debt, China seems primed to be number one.

Within the context of a speech, it is imperative to link economic dominance to other measurements. Power is such a vague concept, that it is not enough to let a large economy be directly linked to hegemony. To provide evidence for this contention, I would advise extempers to use examples of how China has translated economics into politics. Numerous bilateral trade deals have been put in place. As referenced earlier, China’s relationship with Latin America is almost entirely out of economic convenience. Using Latin America as a case-study, extempers could show that if the world starts to see China as a stronger economic ally, then global support will shift to the Far East’s leader.

2. Undeveloped population and political power are resources

Though not entirely fair, it is somewhat logical that countries with more people

will be more powerful. Larger populations give way to greater economic growth, a stronger political base, and a larger military. With the possible exception of India, there is no more underutilized population than that of China. Roughly a third of China’s population in the booming southeast region of the country.  This means that there are 700 million people living in China’s rural areas to the north and west. In other terms, a population more than twice the size of America’s is largely engaging in subsistence farming in small towns. China’s meteoric rise despite only using a fraction of the population makes the sleeping dragon that much scarier. Again, extempers need to be sure to link a larger population into terms that can be directly associated with power. Explicitly how people can improve an economy, society, and military, coupled with an explanation of how those three factors directly lead to power may seem tedious. Yet, it is imperative that the judge is constantly aware that each argument and statistic is part of the competitor’s attempt to answer the question.

Aside from ignoring the majority of the population, China has yet to fully capitalize on its political capital globally. To reference previous briefs that addressed types of power, China may have more soft power than it realizes. As a refresher, soft power is the concept developed by Joseph Nye that allows countries to advance an agenda by showing common interests with another country. In other words, China’s role as the less-than-democratic counterpart to the United States may be very attractive to certain countries. Many countries around the world reluctantly align themselves with the United States out of fear and convenience. The support of the largest military and economy tends to let many smaller powers ignore any ideological disagreements. If China continues its rise, it could offer an alternative to small powers looking for protection. Hugo Chavez and Middle Eastern leaders would be free to say and do anything under the cover of China’s protection. Latin American populists and nationalists would no longer fear the United States. Though it would be extremely unlikely there would ever be a threat of conflict, China has the possibility of restarting a Cold War, bipolarizing the world. The only way to do this would be to add pressure to smaller powers to fall in line under the Chinese banner.

3. US is willing to give up the role

After World War II, the United States was left alone as the superpower. Despite a challenge from the Soviet Union, America has remained number one for roughly six decades. Being in control has offered alliances and a serious attempt at global democratization. Also, debts have been left unpaid since the world needs the United States as the global net consumer.  However, in the words of Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility”. The costs of leading the world are taking their toll and may be enough to convince the US to step aside and let China give it a try.

To review some of the problems of hegemony:

–          America has needed to lead efforts to stop despotism (World Wars, counter the USSR, get involved in Somalia, Yugoslavia etc.)

–          If America did not act, it was called selfish and racist (as evidenced by inaction in Rwanda)

–          If America did not act perfectly, it was called heavy-handed and inept (as evidenced by action in Somalia and the 2nd Gulf War)

–          Even if it does act nobly and effectively, it can be called imperial by helping to rebuild a country (Japan, Germany, Afghanistan)

–          It is looked at as the source of problems and solutions in the global economy

o   The United States is virtually required to be a net consumer to keep other economies afloat

I am not suggesting that the United States wants, or should, stop being a global leader. That debate is for another brief and largely irrelevant to China’s rise. However, it is relevant to the extent that a question involving China’s power relative to the United States could be partially answered by answering the American side of the equation. A rising China is irrelevant if the United States grows at the same rate. A falling America and growing China allows the extemper to show how the two countries will intersect sooner rather than later.


1. China lacks institutional alliances

Global (co-)dominance is not as easy as having the money and military to enforce

national agenda. No country could get away with an overtly aggressive foreign policy. Therefore, there needs to be subtle ways to indirectly use power to get the desired result. The best way to do so is through institutions. If a country has control over a respected organization or system, it can derive the benefits of power without the fallout of blame and jealousy. A prime example is America’s leading role in the WTO, World Bank, and IMF. America, and its western allies, use these organizations to implement a western economic agenda. Economic growth is closely monitored and regulated by the world’s elite. Countries that disobey economic or political norms can be punished with trade restrictions. Though underutilized, the United States exerts influence in the United Nations. As co-founder of the organization, America can make backroom deals to coax the right vote totals. To draw an unnecessary Harry Potter parallel, the United States has invested parts of it soul in many places around the world. Surpassing America’s economy and military is simply not enough. All of the “horcruxes” must be destroyed before China can officially claim victory.

When looking at where China can add institutional strength, the prospects look bleak. Some regional organizations, such as ASEAN may be helpful, but there simply are not that many global institutions that are not already controlled. The UN would be a viable option given China’s Security Council veto power, but the United States, France, and England provide a check on China. Unless China plans on growing so large and important that it can create a legitimate global organization that it can control, it will be nearly impossible to have institutional alliances. In the rare event that China can create a global group of significance, it would not matter. The sheer ability to do so would show sufficient power to be a global leader in the first place.

2. Regional, not global ambitions

This point requires a bit of applied knowledge and guesswork, but certainly is

valid. Historically, China has not aspired to be a global leader. Instead, it wants to have a pseudo-empire throughout Asia. China’s aggressive rhetoric is typically directed at fellow Asian powers, not the industrialized, western states. One of the reasons that the United States desired global dominance is because of a lack of history. Countries that have ruled before often want to return to the “glory days”. For the United States, there were no glory days, so it chased power to the greatest extent possible. In contrast, China’s glory days created a continental tribute system with China at the top.

A modernized tribute system is likely China’s goal. It would entail the same

geographic and political boundaries throughout the region. Any time that a smaller power wanted to enact a significant policy change, it would ask China for approval. Countries would have independence, but be subject to Chinese oversight. This idea does seem horribly antiquated and infeasible, but when Chinese leaders reference their golden ages, it is clear that they have a love affair with the past. Indeed, China may desire to make its past its future. Clearly, if China does not have global ambitions, America will remain at the top, regardless of China’s power possibilities.

3. Lacks a uniform foreign policy to set a global agenda

Certain bedrock principles are required to make a push for hegemony. The United

States has relied heavily on capitalist and democratic rhetoric. World Wars were justified to the people as a war against tyranny and despotism. The Cold War was a protracted struggle for basic human freedoms. America left the Gold Standard in order to preserve economic freedom for the masses. While there are some exceptions, the United States’ actions have been largely predictable. Countries that stand beside America know exactly what they are signing up for.

In contrast, China lacks those principles. One could argue that China is simply a

re-creation of the Soviet Union. They are both communist countries that reject American democracy. However, the similarities end there. China has employed free-market principles and loosened restrictions on democracy. The only common thread of China’s actions in the past few decades is a desire for power. While desiring strength is fine as an internal decision-calculus, it does not make for a foreign policy. A world led by China would be very inconsistent. Petrostates would be left unchecked, some democracies challenged, and other countries ignored. Power is not a guiding principle for global power distribution. Ruling the world would prove impossible, forcing the world to descend into international anarchy. Surely countries recognize the potential for ineptitude in leadership and wish to avoid such a fate. Therefore, few will consent to Chinese leadership, creating a global coalition against China surpassing the United States.

“China’s Peaceful Rise.” Brookings Institute. <>.

This book review references speeches by Zheng Bijian during the turn of the millenium. Zheng was the first Chinese official to coin the term “peaceful rise”. This philosophy holds that China can grow into a powerhouse without encroaching on the pre-existing order.

Ikenberry, G. John. “The Rise of China and the Future of the West.” Jan.-Feb. 2008. Foreign Affairs. <>.

This article starts off with a dangerous proposal: China is guaranteed to overthrow the United States. Working off of this starting point, Ikenberry explores what the world would look like. His solutions are extremely fascinating and provide myriad impacts, AGDs, and possibilities.

Naim, Moises. “Can the World Afford a Middle Class?” Los Angeles Times. 8 Feb. 2008. <,0,3322827.story>. Mr. Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, looks at the growth in the developing world and explores its ramifications. He notes there simply may not be enough resources globally to go around. Americans have long benefited from taking more than their alloted share of the world’s offerings. If the Chinese middle class become more powerful, they will inevitably be at loggerheads with the United States’ population.

Thornton, John L. “Long Time Coming.” Jan.-Feb. 2008. Foreign Affairs. <>.

Thornton contends that China is in fact democratizing. Even though it may in be at the rate or fashion that the United States desires, China is opening up. He certainly does not make a groundbreaking argument but combines fact with theory to create a narrative of a liberating China.

“U.S. Based Global Firms Oppose Trade Limits on China.” 7 Feb. 2008. MarketWatch. <>.

During economic hard times, there is an impulse to stop international trade. This article investigates how American policymakers are grappling with seeing China as the cause and/or solution to America’s economic woes.

Topic Brief: China-Domestic

By Michael Garson

At present, China is a fascinating country to study. The average extemper is hard-pressed to explain how an authoritarian, “communist” country is presiding over unprecedented economic growth. How a country that was left alone for decades has been thrust into the global economy in a matter of a few years requires a complicated back-story. The reconciliation of stability, growth, and political repression necessitates a herculean effort on behalf of the Chinese government. As the country undergoes major changes, it is crucial for international extempers to not lose sight of the Chinese perspective. This brief intends to offer deeper understanding by seeing China from the inside out.

This brief will:

–          Look at China’s internal political structure

o   Determine the extent to which China is communist

o   Focus on the role of the Communist party

o   Decipher Taiwan’s role for China and the United States

o   Examine regional autonomy and differences

§  Analyze the causes of the urban/rural & rich/poor gaps

§  Look for solutions to keep China stable and thriving

–          Look at China’s Economy history

o   Use WTO accession as a turning point

o   Describe China’s economic structure

o   Explore the possibility of economic sustainability


China is Communist?

When addressing China, extempers often hold on to the concept of communism for dear life. They feel that using the broad stroke of communism can be used to derive China’s domestic policies. Unfortunately, China is not communist in the same way that the Soviet Union was. In fact, the Soviet Union was not even communist in the way that Karl Marx would have wanted. The concept of communism is rather simple: all citizens work for the good of society, giving their labors to the state, which equally redistributes wealth. The key advantage of this system is that allows society to eliminate the problems of capitalism: inequality and poverty. No one would go hungry in a communist system, but no one would be fabulously wealthy. Economically, communism relies on a state-driven model, since producers and consumers cannot be trusted to create equality. The state collectivizes small business, taking advantage of economies of scale. With large production levels, costs can be kept low, production can be monitored, and distribution can be equitable.

In totality, modern China does not look like this dream state. The markets are opening up, allowing for competition on the open market both in China and abroad. Some smaller elections have been liberated, giving the people power. However, the state is also somewhat authoritarian. A revolution that was originally designed to serve the people, has repressed the people for decades. Political dissidents are jailed and/or executed. The internet is closely monitored to ensure citizens do not visit any pro-democracy websites. All in all, China is communist in name only. A more apt description would be an authoritarian state with an increasingly open economy.

Role of Party

The Chinese Communist Party originally arose as a Marxist movement. Led by Mao Zedong, the party sought to bring equality and prosperity to the disenfranchised masses. In the same way that the Soviet Union fell to corrupt leaders, China no longer represented the change it claimed to advocate. Communism became authoritarianism and “first among equal” leaders became despots. The party, under Zedong, inextricably linked a socialist political body with a state-owned economy. It argued that the “people” (read: government elite) need to be in control of the entire country, politics and economics included.

In the 1990s, the party changed its course under Deng Xioaping. Deng claimed that the state need not be socialist and eschew the free market. Indeed, the country can stick to socialist principles while simultaneously opening up the economy. He believed that China’s large population and relatively abysmal standard of living could be bettered through international trade. The country teased with this concept and found early success. Over the past two decades, China has found a direct correlation between economic freedom and growth. Decades of underutilization are being made up at a record pace. Oppressive politics no longer rule over China’s economic destiny.

Currently, the party still keeps strong control over the people. As the only real political party in the country, the communists pick national leaders. The General Secretary of the communist party, Hu Jintao, is also president of China. As a historical parallel, the Chinese communist party is a more violent version of Mexico’s PRI. The party brings the citizens under a common banner and is the beginning and end of national politics. By focusing on using leaders within a system, China has resisted dictatorships. Power is spread out over party leaders just enough to keep political consistency while making sure no single person is too powerful.

The most recent challenge to the party comes not from the people, but from within. As economic growth continues to define China’s 21st century, some local leaders are pursuing growth at any cost. Completely ignoring the national government’s stated objectives and limitations, local chapters of the party have gotten into hot water. This theme truly began last year and has been quietly bubbling just underneath the surface. To be sure, the communist party will inevitably fail, as political institutions do. What remains to be seen is if its demise will be internal or external in nature.


Nearly every “international hotspots” round has a question on Taiwan. As the middle ground between the United States and China, this small island is a lightning rod for analysis. Taiwan existed as a haven for Chinese nationalists who sought to overthrow Chairman Mao and his communist regime. The United States acknowledged the Taiwanese government as the actual representative of all of China for decades. It would become almost comical as Taiwanese delegates would sit at the United Nations supposedly speaking for a swath of land it did not control. At present, nearly all of the countries in the world reluctantly have acknowledged mainland China as the rightful government in China. The “One China” policy is the brilliant move that has provided the legitimacy. It holds that in order to engage with China (i.e. trade), the other party must acknowledge that there is only one China, and it is led by the communist party. Though little more than rhetorical lip service, the world has been forced to distance itself from Taiwan.

Taiwan currently is a democratic pseudo-state that is under Chinese supervision. There has been a cessation of hostilities, giving Taiwan increased independence. However, whenever Taiwanese leaders become too brazen and discuss national sovereignty, China will be sure to enforce order. The mainland also has this tendency to shoot missiles over Taiwan into the Pacific Ocean as part of “routine tests”. In truth, China wants Taiwan to know that it could destroy its nationalist neighbor in a matter of seconds if it so desired.

For whatever reason, question writers seem to periodically wonder how the United States figures into this equation. With all due respect, America simply does not have a place. It would be absolutely ridiculous for America to take the moral high ground and officially recognize Taiwan as a soverign state. Doing so would only inflame Sino-Taiwanese and Sino-American relations. If Taiwan accepted the American assertion, China could stage a full-scale invasion, claiming insubordination and an attempt at secession. I would love to get involved in a detailed manner of freeing Taiwan, but one just does not exist. The current détente works for all parties involved, and there is no reason to change it until the situation is altered.

Regional Problems

Rural/Urban gap

One of the most underreported problems in China is the plight of the rural poor. As China’s double-digit economic growth rate keeps it at the forefront of international affairs, most of its population is suffering. Given the population exceeds one billion people, the power of the suburban and urban should come as no surprise. Roughly one-third of Chinese citizens live in the high-growth, modernizing southeast portion of the country. Meanwhile, the overwhelming geographic majority of the country is left to subsistence farmers. The sparse population and inability to inhabit throughout the northwest creates two Chinas. The government currently faces growing problems from both parts of the country. The rising middle-class in modern China may soon grow wiser and start to demand political, as well as economic, freedoms. Additionally, if the rural poor become aware of what life in the cities is like, they may increase demand for government services and money. This demand will challenge the well-being, and superiority, of the urban population that has grown accustomed to the attention and funds that come with growth.


The main cause of this problem is rather obvious: economics. Cities are more likely to experience economic growth than small farm towns. With a large labor force to draw from, businesses arrive in the cities. As industry increases, it brings in more people and money, creating a cycle of wealth. In more democratic and benevolent governments, rural areas are offered lower tax rates and government services. In China, the government has continued to milk its cash cow, spurring increased growth in the region. While agrarian towns in China are not necessarily worse off now than they were decades before, they are being denied the gains realized in other parts of the country. Greed and a democracy deficit are the primary causes of this gap. If the government was directly responsible to the people, then the 70% of the population which is rural would vote for politicians that ensured equality. Without the authorization of the people, the government is free to pursue growth at any cost.


Solving for the rich-poor gap in theory is rather easy. Having the national government offer tax cuts and increase services would go a long way. With all of the tax revenue that the southeastern part of the country is generating, it would be “fair” to siphon some off to less-fortunate citizens. Also, the farmers would surely appreciate greater access to education, healthcare, and other towns. Building infrastructure in all parts of the country would be costly, but improve the quality of life in the region.

While serving the people is a noble governmental goal, it is not necessarily high on the priority list of an authoritarian government. Hearkening back to the mantra of government, it is a government’s primary goal to stay in power. If the status quo, or a prolonged existence of it, can be deemed an existential threat, then the Communist Party will have to reevaluate the situation. The reason for inaction is that the government does not see the 700 million disenfranchised citizens as dangerous. Sparsely populated and seemingly accepting of their situation, the government does not see why it should be afraid. However, history suggests otherwise. As the country continues to grow, it will be impossible to keep the entire country in the dark. Knowledge and money, on some scale, will trickle out to everyone. With knowledge and money comes power and understanding. Discourse and analysis will ultimately make the poor realize how manipulated and ignored they have been. Surely the flowery prose of John Locke and/or brilliance of Adam Smith will make the Chinese government appear in a different light. Indeed, a revolution may start to brew among the people who feel taken advantage of for generations. As money, not guns, become the new currency of power, the Chinese government will soon face the existential threat that they have convinced themselves does not, and will not, exist.


WTO Accession

Prior to the 1990s, China was an economic disappointment. With such a large population, the economy could not get past subsistence farming and weak industries. The communist party’s strict control over the national economy restricted growth since it limited exports. With only enough goods to satiate domestic demand, the Chinese economy was little more than a super-sized commune. In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization. The move was an attempt to improve the economy through expanded trade and to enter the international community as part of the “peaceful rise” program.


China joining the WTO is arguably the single greatest catalyst to China’s arrival on the international scene in earnest. There is no doubt that China derives its power from its great economy. Without access to global markets , China would struggle to compete internationally. The artificial (as opposed to natural) advantages of cheap labor and low environmental standards allowed China to undercut other producers and saturate the market. The love affair that countries have with cheap Chinese manufactured goods has spurred China’s rise.

What it symbolizes

Since China gains so much power from economics, it has set a precedent for other countries to follow. Granted, India is the only other country with so many underemployed, but the system works. Joining the WTO appears to be a prerequisite for global economic growth. Once the world accepts a country as a viable economic ally, suddenly political issues seem less relevant. For example, the United States famously ignores human rights abuses and alleged state-sponsored terrorism from its oil-exporting “allies”.  Indeed, the Chinese blueprint exists for other countries. Vietnam, for example has not compromised politics, but currently is trying to crack the global market and find a niche. Small and large countries alike can legitimize themselves through economics.


Role of Labor

Again, economic advantages can be natural or artificial. A natural advantage is one that exists without the benefits of society or infrastructure, like the prevalence of natural resources. An artificial advantage is the result of societal interaction. Transportation systems and access to larger markets are artificial means of dropping prices. Labor is an example of an artificial advantage. As globalization makes communications cheaper and faster, it is becoming more efficient to pay transactions costs and increase production in China. One of the primary reasons that Chinese goods are so attractive is that the labor required for production is significantly cheaper than that of the United States. Without hundreds of millions of potential workers, China would not experience double-digit growth annually.

Reliance on resources

An introduction economics course will constantly stress that all decisions are made at the margin. This means that each economic decision is made at each possible production level. The decision to create 3 widgets is not one decision, but three: the decision to make the first widget, the decision to make the second, and the decision to make the third. Producers seek to maximize profit by determining the perfect amount of production. Production is largely based on how much resources cost. If companies see the price of commodities fall, they will invariably create more goods to take advantage of the heightened profit margin.

Due to the delicate balance between resource prices and economic growth, China’s recent spike in resource consumption has caused a great disturbance. With so much production relocating to China, resources have been forced to follow. Precious metals, coal, and oil have been redirected to China in order to maximize profit. As China continues to undercut the market, it can afford to pay a higher price for prices since labor is relatively cheap. One of the most important parts of natural resources is that they are not creatable. There is a fixed amount of coal in the world and different companies and countries must bid for it. Once the supply runs out, there is no turning back. The increased demand for natural resources has caused a price surge, making production more expensive for the rest of the world. This reliance on resources poses two dangers to China. First, exporters of energy could raise the price to astronomical levels in order to hold the economy hostage. China lacks the strong ties and domestic production necessary to be secure economically. Also, China has been forced to look farther for resources than the industrialized states have. Therefore, alliances with unsavory characters have arose out of necessity.

Sustainability of growth

Necessary preconditions

Whether or not they are perceptible, there are certain factors and institutions that have made China’s dramatic economic rise possible. The most obvious example is a desire for Chinese goods abroad. Economic growth has been fueled by two concurrent factors: direct foreign investment and exports. Direct foreign investment is the economic term for people from different countries investing in a company in a foreign country. The influx of foreign currency has allowed for increased production. Creating more goods is only helpful if the goods can be sold to a consumer. China lacks the necessary strong middle class to consume as much as created, so it looks overseas. Much of what is produced is shipped out to other countries in exchange for more foreign currency. The dollars, Euros, and Yen can be then used to buy foreign products, improving the economy and the standard of living.

Given the recent economic collapse, foreign direct investment and China’s exporting ability have both come into question. Foreign direct investment is almost guaranteed to plummet because of a risk-aversion. One of the causes of America’s recent problems is that bad investments were made in other countries in hopes of getting a high growth rate. The general principle of risk outpacing reward is on the mind of international investors. When it comes time to find a safe place for an investment, few are likely to look at the economic newcomer with growth rates that may be too high to be true.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, exports may end up increasing in China. With the stock market struggling, western consumers have seen the value of their assets fall. Therefore, their perceived income and net worth have dropped. With less money, consumers need to be smarter and more efficient with their purchases. Chinese goods have the distinct advantage of being significantly cheaper than most domestic counterparts. Many consumers will likely overlook economic nationalism in favor of saving a few Euros or rubles. Many Chinese products are inferior goods, meaning that a drop in income does not correlate to a drop in consumption. Happy meal toys and t-shirts are hardly luxury items, shielding China from economic shocks.

With these divergent trends, China may face a currency shortage. Selling goods is not the problem, creating them is. Without a steady inflow of money, some Chinese ventures may go unfunded, hampering economic growth. In all likelihood, the economy is likely to slow down as the world struggles to work its way through a potential recession.

Ramifications of sustained growth

If China is somehow able to keep up high growth rates for the next few years, the world will be forced to react. In a matter of a few decades, the United States will no longer hold claim as the largest global economy. The political ramifications will be addressed elsewhere, but cannot be understated. The economic ramifications are closely linked to economic feasibility since the free market is hard to stop, whereas political theory is constantly subject to criticism and acceptance of the international community.

Is it even possible?

Given China’s current growth pattern given its size and duration of expansion, there really is no telling if it is sustainable. Surely it will be impossible to experience high growth rates for decades to come. Whether or not China has built an economic bubble that is going to burst soon is a hot question for policymakers. Advanced statistical analyses of the viability of increased production is a great asset for those with doctorate degrees in economics. For high school extemp, it would be sufficient to look holistically at the situation. The fact of the matter is that every year growing gets harder. Since growth rates are annual, the expectation is growth upon growth. In order to keep up the percentage, China must grow, in terms of yuan, by more annually. At some point, resources will be exhausted. When this maximization occurs, it likely will continue a slight contraction as investors and consumers blindly believe China can continue to grow. As capital floods the market, inflation is a likely result. All in all, China likely is headed for a wall because there simply will no longer be enough resources to go around.

“China Plans Rail Link to Central Asia for Oil.” 29 Jan. 2008. Times of India. <>.

Though anecdotal, this article shows how desperate China really is for oil. Building a railroad into central Asia is China’s best chance at securing oil contracts with former Soviet satellite states. Again, with only so much oil to go around, China has put some fear into the United States.

“Chinese Official Gets Life for Bribery.” 6 Feb. 2008. Guardian. <,,-7286757,00.html>.

This article focuses in on two important themes in Chinese governance. First, corruption has been on the rise as economic growth has increased opportunity for officials to steal. Also, the national government has been forced to crackdown on renegade leaders. The stiff punishment is proof that China is out to stop both corruption and insubordination.

“No Cooling China’s Economic Engine.” 8 Feb. 2008. Asia Times. <>.

This article suggests that China’s economy is strong enough to withstand a sluggish global economy. Recent snow storms are only temporary hurdles. SARS barely registered as an economic threat despite international concerns and domestic panic. Defeating mother nature and disease surely are more difficult tasks than a market correction due to too much risk, right?

“Whether At Home or Abroad, China is Silent on Matters of Democracy.” 7 Feb. 2008. International Herald Tribune. <>. The Olympics were left out of the topic brief because they simply are not terribly relevant. Any questions on them will simply be a reflection of pre-standing knowledge of the country’s problems and possibilities. This article addresses China’s inability to address democracy as a national shortcoming.

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