China Counterplans

Discussion of counterplan opportunities is another opportunity to create consider strategy.

“Soft engagement” counterplans.  In 2005-2006, the college policy debate resolution focused on the question of whether or not the US should increase its pressure on China. The topic was unidirectional – the Aff had to be mean to China in order to exact some concession.

It was tough to be Affirmative that year.  Negative teams frequently ran counterplans to achieve the same results by being (super) nice to China and then read disadvantages such as CCP stability and relations as net-benefits to the counterplan. The Negative could always add in a long list of very nice rewards that it would offer China to change its behavior.

Pressure counterplans. If the Affirmative is soft on China, Negative teams can counterplan to use pressure to obtain the same results, using the Containment Good and the Elections/Politics disadvantages as net-benefits.

I do think the solvency evidence for this counterplan is not as good as the general engagement solvency, so I think that most teams will turn to more soft-line approaches.

Unilateral policy change counterplans. Rather than directly engage China, the US could make a policy change unilaterally.  The net-benefits to this counterplan are Diplomatic Capital and any other disadvantages that can be uniquely linked to interacting with the Chinese government (potentially CCP stability and may human rights/democracy leadership).

This counterplan will be very effective against any case that interacts with China solely for the purpose of being topical. For example, cases that reduce US export controls could be done without any interaction with China, but some plans may interact with China in an artificial way for topicality purposes.

Add a condition counterplans.   The US could make a QPQ deal with China that has either a positive condition (doing something nice for China if they go along) or a negative condition (a penalty if they fail to go along). Regardless of the type of condition, it is arguably competitive to either change or add condition(s), as those changes would sever out of the original offer. The net-benefit would be some better or additional solvency for the case.

Advantage counterplans.  Advantage counterplans are simply counterplans that solve the various Affirmative advantages without engaging China. Net-benefits are the various disadvantages to engagement (hard line or soft line).

Process counterplans. More and more angst has been developing against process counterplans, but they are still popular in debate. The basic idea is that rather than adopt the plan (as the Affirmative proposes) is that the plan is is first sent through some process, which, the Negative will say, will inevitable lead to its adoption. For example, the Negative may propose that some US-China commission consider the counterplan and that such consideration will improve US-China relations and lead to its adoption.

Historically, one of the most popular process counterplans is the Consult counterplan. This counterplan argues that the plan should be proposed to a country that is likely to support its adoption, but since the counterplan gives the country a veto over the plan that this veto opportunity will likely strengthen relations with said country. But, of course, in the end the country will support the plan and it will be adopted.

If you are a Policy debater, it is always good to have a process counterplan in the hopper at the beginning of the year in order that you can have a potentially winning strategy against any case you are debating.