Instigator / Con

The US should impose economic penalties against China due to China's failure regarding Covid-19


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
Better sources
Better legibility
Better conduct

After 5 votes and with the same amount of points on both sides...

It's a tie!
Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
One week
Max argument characters
Voting period
Two months
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Contender / Pro

This is a debate concerning the use of fiscal sanctions on China. Fauxlaw brought this up in the forums, so I figured it would be interesting to debate.

Round 1
Per an agreement in the PMs, I waive this round
In mid-March, I launched a forum topic: “China owes the world a monetary penalty for allowing expansion of Covid-19.”[1] It has generated enough interest that my opponent, and friend, Blamonkey, suggested it become a debate topic, and I agreed to have him set it up.
I have been thinking on the subject, and felt not a little bit of pride when, last week, a news commentator mentioned the possibility that such a penalty would be fitting. To me, it is a foregone conclusion, but I will make that subject my first point of argument; it remains to flesh-out just what would be an appropriate penalty. I will, to the last part of that argument, propose two penalties, and see where the arguments take us.
I further propose that each debater take three rounds to argue their points or rebuttal, or both, then the fourth round for rebuttals and conclusions, but no new argument.
I do not think any definitions are required up front, but Blamonkey may decide to entertain them, and I’ll likely agree to them.
Fair enough? Let’s debate!
I China’s poor record of handling infectious disease proliferation 
I.a There should be penalty levied against China for their  poor handling of the Covid-19 virus in allowing it to spread beyond their borders when the incident of patient 0, whose identity appears to be unknown, occurred deep into the Chinese interior. 
Wuhan, ground zero of Covid-19, is due west some 840 km from Shanghai where the Yangtze River’s gaping mouth is the end of its long journey through the interior, and bisects Wuhan in its wandering course. It is 1,150 km miles south of Beijing. As such, Wuhan is geographically isolated by dense forestation sufficient to have been able to prevent such a rapid spread unless they were as sloppy handling Covid-19 as apparently evident with H5N1 [Bird Flu].
Their prior evidence of experience of allowing the spread of viruses to the world, it behooves China to have been more prepared to contain Covid-19. Nevertheless, China was caught behind the proverbial 8-ball by not even alerting WHO [World Health Organization] until the first week of January 2020.
I.b Considering just qurantineable and vaccine-preventable infectious diseases originating in China over the last 35 years [to 1975], China has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Chinese and international persons by just infectious diseases such as H5N1, and Covid-19.[2]To date, China is experiencing more sympathy than expressing responsibility for these mostly needless deaths.
I.c Since these infectious diseases are originating in China, it behooves China to take responsibility for their weak response to protecting the rest f the world, at least, if they are going to be considered as a responsible neighbor in the world community.
II Not “Off with their heads!” dear red queen, but more than a slap on the wrist
II.a In the previously reference Forum post [see Introduction], I posted the following, “What's the value of a human life? I don't think that has a calculated number, and, there is more to the effect of Covid-19 than human life. It has caused health, economic, political, religious, and education consequences, and probably more. 
The WTO [World Trade Org] names 140 nations in its membership, and all 140 are granted Most Favored Nation [NFN] status. China is currently listed. At the very least, China should be removed from WTO and MFN status. Now.”[3]
However, given the source of the above [it was me], I now recognize that my source of the number of nations holding the WTO’s Most Favored Nation [MFN] status was old date. The number, as of this year, 2020, is 164,[4][84% of all nations] and China is still listed. Not that the number of MFN listings matters; China’s listing under the circumstances of the result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the nature of the debate. 
II.b Listing means that it gives China, and all listed nations, access to the larger market, it lowers the cost of their exports since it lowers trade barriers, and their products become more competitive and offers businesses more opportunity for growth.[5]
As the second-largest trading nation in the world by volume of trade, China certainly does not deserve to have its head removed, so to speak, that is, have all its trading privileges removed to become an isolated nation. But the notion that it can escape from consequence all together for its mismanagement of the Covid-19 outbreak while it was still contained within its borders in a geographically isolated region well within its borders is unthinkable. Punishment certainly ought to be levied; it’s supposed to be punitive and painful, but not fatal to the nation, and particularly its people. After all, the people are not as responsible as their government. That the government may not have been ultimately responsible [although that could be argued] they certainly are responsible for allowing the outbreak to grow beyond their borders, if not by direct action, then by ignorance of taking any action when prudent to do so. Let it be so.
III All have a right to be free; none have the right to take it from another
III.a I will claim the above as a personal quote, but its sentiment certainly is not. We have Immanual Kant [1724 – 1804] to thank for his philosophy of “Science of Right” [1790],[6] which, on the surface, is a treatment of a general concept that punishment of a crime should fit the nature of the crime. However, Kant’s philosophy in this regard is much deeper water than that shallow pond. He posits that a question such as ‘what is right?’ “…is… about as embarrassing to a jurist as the well known question, ‘what is truth?’ is to the logician.”[7]
III.b Kant speaks to both legislation and jurisprudence: “ is much more difficult to determine whether what they have enacted is right in itself, and to lay down a universal criterion by which right and wrong in general, and what is unjust, may be recognized.”[8]
“Every action is right which in itself, or in he maxim on which it proceeds, is such that it can coexist along with the freedom of will of each and all in action, according to universal law.”[9]
Well, there’s a right proper string of legal/philosophical gobbledygook. However, deconstructed, all Kant is saying is that my right of action ends at your nose; the fundamental principle of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. That Kant had access to a copy of that document, effected on a separate continent only two years before Kant's paper, is problematic, but just serves to also ratify the universality of the concept of Kant’s Science of Right.
III.c Applied to the situation presented by this debate, it means that to whatever degree the harm caused by Covid-19 cost in not only lives, which can have no real estimated monetary value, but in loss of revenue to each nation affected, not only is direct loss of trade revenue, but in cost to treat the cases incident of the pandemic, which does have an attributive monetary value, at least in an arguable scope.
III.d Apply that value, and impose a temporary banishment of China from the WTO, and its MFN status, until the debt is substantively paid. This will not restrict China’s right to international trade, but it will limit the profit to be had by China’s participation in trade.
I rest my case for the first round.

Round 2
America’s Covid-19 experience can be likened to a freshman college student’s experience at a frat house party. Sure, it starts nice with cheap booze and humorous banalities, but eventually, the intrepid freshman will wake up from their intoxicated stupor at 3 am with a mammoth hangover and notice that the frat house seemed to have been attacked by an entropic wildebeest. Everything of worth has been be strewn precariously across the floor, said freshman would disgorge thousands of American workers from its beer-soaked, cavernous mouth, but worst of all, the police have arrived because some killjoy had to ruin the good-natured, hazardous drink-a-thon by snitching to the police. So, here is the question du jour. Do we swagger confidently over to the snitch and knee him in gonads, or, do we abstain? I argue that no matter the short-term catharsis that can be gained from a swift knee to the bollocks, it will only escalate into bottle breaking, neck-snapping calamity, and that is wherein our troubles will lie. But first, some groundwork.


The MFN status is defined by Pro, so I won’t go down the rabbit hole explaining it. The key part to understand is that every country afforded the MFN status is offered the same trading privileges without discrimination as any other MFN country (i.e. if tariffs are set for all products at 6%, and we levy an extra tariff on a cantankerous trading partner that holds the MFN status, such action would be a breach of the MFN agreement). Therefore, rescinding the MFN status necessarily indicates that to an extent, sanctions related to trade would be implemented under Pro’s plan.


So, how does one justify fiscal retribution? Typically, the intended effect of levying economic sanctions is to induce political change. So, what behavior are we objecting to? The resolution focuses on the torpid response from China to the Covid-19 outbreak. How does China rectify its behavior? The resolution implies that we want China to improve their response to future outbreaks. Regardless, the primary benefactor of these sanctions should be the US given that the federal government is the chief actor in the resolution. Moreover, any possible change in behavior needs to be weighed against the sanction’s impact on the US people.

C1: Chinese Retaliation & US Dependence

Let’s consider for a moment the capricious, fragile trade relationship between China and the US. For roughly 2 years, the US and China have been engaged in a tit-for-tat trade dispute that has escalated into swathing unilateral sanctions imposed by both countries. Recently, the US and China have finally forged a preliminary agreement that could signal a return to normal trade relations after the stipulations of the deal are met (27). Frankly, the purchase of $200 billion dollars in US goods seems far-fetched, and China could easily subvert the deal by just not paying for US goods. Yet, the temporary respite from tariffs would benefit the US and China. However, punitive action, no matter how minute in scale, would bring us back to square one and continue the tit-for-tat trade war that has undoubtedly tested the mettle of the US and Chinese economy.

The US and China are integrated markets, so external shocks to one economy is likely to affect the other, largely due to our co-dependence on trade. The Asian manufacturing monolith is the largest supplier of exports to the US, and the total worth of the Chinese exports reaching American ports exceeds ½ a trillion dollars (1). In addition, the Chinese marketplace is the United States’ third largest export market (1). This trade relationship supports jobs in both economies. Yet, the recent trade war has sparked lay-offs and reduced consumption. When the trade partition was forged, American companies were unable to sell their products to the Chinese markets, nor could they access the global supply chain that allowed cheaply produced inputs from China to be used in American products. Without these inputs, firms purchase costlier substitutes from other nations or from other US sourced corporations, effectively raising prices for a sundry of consumer products. Steel was one particular input that faced a price surge after tariffs were introduced, incurring a cost of $5.6 billion dollars to steel-reliant firms, and increasing the price of steel products by 9% (15). Roughly 20% of the US retail supply chain is exposed to China (2), and China supplied the US about 1/3 of its imported antibiotics and personal protective equipment (3). Among the antibiotics exported to the US, three antibiotics (azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and piperacillin) require compounds that are exclusively produced by China (13).

This is only the apex of the proverbial glacier though. China possesses an unassailable golden ticket to strongarm the US: their stranglehold on rare earth metals, which constitutes over 80% of the rare earth metals we import. Chinese state media has floated the idea to restrict rare earth metal exports to the US on numerous occasions as the trade war between the US and China reached a fever pitch (5). Considering the fact that China has already increased tariffs on rare earth metals by 15%, we should not consider the possibility of further restriction an implausible threat (6). While there are potential options for obtaining the 17 elusive metals that are prevalently used in x-ray machines, military hardware, cell phones, and the computer you are typing on now, the previous attempt to mine for them failed when Molycorp folded due to robust Chinese competition in 2015, while another firm, MP Materials, just started mining this year (4). China’s superiority in chemical separation to obtain rare earth metals will supplant any of our attempts to produce our own thanks to environmental and worker regulation, so profitability is a lost cause for potentially interested firms. Short term fixes, such as recycling old rare earth metals and relying on stockpiles may be sufficient now, but the future is unpredictable and hazy. Some industries may find workarounds, but jeopardizing the future of military technology (the DoD represents 9% of global demand for rare earth metals which is used in military hardware to protect our troops (10)), computerized telehealth (which is becoming vital for older patients due to stay-at-home orders preventing doctor visits throughout the US (11)), medical devices (China’s production of invasive ventilators represents 20% of the global production company (12)), and the plethora of other consumer products is not a tenable option for our economy or national security. We can expect harsh countermeasures for our temerity. The trade war, the sum of intense US and Chinese provocation, has already cost American jobs and businesses because of the rebounding effect of our own steel tariffs coupled with the retaliatory measures China responded with. Analysis from the NBER suggests that communities most vulnerable to the retaliatory measures reduced auto-sales by 2.5%, and reduced job growth by 1.5% (7). The Tax Foundation complements this study with their own which projects that over 170,000 jobs have been lost due to our own sanctions which have prevented companies from purchasing China’s cheap inputs and retaliatory sanctions (8). The Trade Partnership enumerates that for every job created by tariffs, more than 5 are lost (16). The fiscal consequence of our actions has culminated in an aid package sent to farmers in 2019 at the behest of Congress (9).

The US is still reeling from layoffs and economic disruption stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the immense leverage China has over the US, it makes little sense to start enacting punitive measures. China’s taut grasp of medical supplies and rare-earth metals would detriment the US should China choose to leverage those advantages to starve the US of those vital resources. Even if China decides to avoid using their stalwart monopolies on rare earth metals and medical equipment, conventional retaliatory sanctions have a marked impact on US jobs and consumption as demonstrated by past reciprocal sanctions, something that the US economy cannot withstand in its fragile state. The unemployment rate is estimated to peak at 32%, which is over 5% higher than peak unemployment during the Great Depression (17).

Furthermore, it’s important to note that China’s dependence on the US is waning. Despite remaining an export powerhouse, China’s bolstered private sector and acrimonious US trade relations has facilitated a decline in exports, which used to represent 37% of their GDP in 2007 and fell precipitously to under 20% in 2018 (14). In other words, China has a lot to lose, but not as much as the US.

C2: WTO Organization is Vital to Curtailing Unscrupulous Chinese Trading Tactics

It should be no surprise that the US is typically favored in trade disputes with China on the international stage. China has been forced to capitulate to US demands on numerous occasions, and our win-loss record stands at 20-0 for cases brought against China, while China only wins 1/3 of the cases brought against the US. 40% of the time, US complaints are “resolved after consultations and without a protracted process of adjudication by a WTO dispute panel” (18). This should illustrate how the venerable intergovernmental institution instills compliance in China. In fact, since China joined the WTO in 2001, IP payments to foreign patent holders have increased to over $20 billion dollars, well over the global average, and much more than the $1 billion dollars they used to pay out annually (19). China is also increasing their patent payouts far more than France and other developed nations (19). A plethora of bills and international accessions to UN resolutions have occurred in the past 2 decades, but the problems related to IP theft admittedly linger due to the failure of local authorities that bring charges against offenders (especially if a decision to try an IP violator is counter to local policy goals,) and a bureaucratic, endemically flawed court system (20). Both of these issues are being addressed with the induction of specialized court systems headed by judges versed in IP law with at least 6 years of experience and the creation of the IP Case Guidance System (20). While it is likely that the IP theft bugbear will remain for some time, China is addressing the problem adequately, but that might change if their membership to the WTO is revoked. Why? The reason is that the WTO is an organization with multilateral clout and has a proven track record in bending ne’er do wells to international trade law with its unique arbitration process. As the Case Western Reserve Law Review explicates, the unique arbitration process benefits both complainant and respondents. The complainant, a pathway to removing unfair laws from trade law Is tenable, while the respondent can be certain that reprisal is temporary pursuant to WTO guidelines (25). The heavily regulated process, according to the study, “incentivize[s] member nations, such as the United States and China, to utilize the formal forum rather than to engage in potentially volatile bilateral negotiations…” (25). Aiding in the organization’s palatability is the potential for mixed rulings, where the appellate board can be alerted by a respondent nation that the legal interpretation of the WTO’s lower courts was erroneous in one or two aspects of a ruling (25). The mixed rulings are integral in allowing both countries to claim victory, while preventing a “winner-take-all” mentality (25).
The WTO’s jurisdiction extends to members and observers, so the arbitration process which garners compliance from China will be closed. Who is to say that China won’t develop new unfair trading practices sans the WTO? It’s quite likely that China will divest of the US in response and look toward other nations willing to trade instead of resolving their trade disputes amicably with the US. China and Russia are increasing bilateral trade and developing yuan-denominated bonds to rival the domination of US currency, which could reduce demand for US-backed treasuries and hamper US endeavors to fund the government through foreign-held securities (21). Reconciliation with Brazil, a key BRICS member (23), the belt-and-road initiative’s (BRI) influence in middle- and lower-income countries, and bolstered trade relationships with the EU (22) have also displaced the fiscal consequences of US sanctions. While it is true that US sanctions can bite, China’s resourcefulness and prominence in international trade have ameliorated many concerns about their reliance on the US. Expelling China from the WTO will only increase US enmity in China, which, in turn, sparks China’s reliance on the BRICS partnership, the relationships forged through the BRI (including many low-income countries in Africa, Asia, and the middle east that can’t defend themselves from China’s duplicitous tactics (22)) and even some of our own allies.

If we want to protect American businesses from IP theft, the arbitration process needs to remain open to challenge China. The total price of IP theft could span from $180 to $540 billion dollars per year to US companies (28). The unique arbitration system breeds complicity so as to reduce the cost to businesses which buttresses job security and prevents business closures without hampering economic growth or causing China to divest from the US. Perhaps the most emblematic development is the falling Foreign Direct Investment in the US following the trade fallout, which declined by 90% (29). Not only was China a major contributor to FDI outlays to the US (30), FDI supports over 8 million jobs too (31). Contempt for one’s neighbor is not going to reverse this trend, and neither is expelling a country that is taking major strides toward strengthening their regulations.

Sources in comments. I turn the floor to my esteemed opponent. 
I The whole world is watching:
I.a When I started my freshman year at UCLA, a few serious incidents were ahead of me at the end of the term. I didn’t join a frat; I lived at home, two miles from the Westwood campus in Brentwood. In the meantime, Vietnam was raging, protest was a virtually daily event in which I did not participate [I saw no sense in it]. The closest I came to activism on that front was adopting the uniform: platform leather boots, bellbottom jeans with a wide hem of flower-printed fabric, a wide leather belt, full eighteenth century long, puffy sleeved paisley shirt, wooden beads, and a Tom Jefferson pony tail tied with a leather string, aviator sunglasses, and a trimmed blond beard, like my hair. Later, I added a suede leather Russian peasant cap that I purchased in France when I was there a year later, and which I still own and wear. Of all of that, other than the hat, only the beard remains, and it’s white.
One of those incidents I mentioned was preparing to go to France; my ancestral homeland. The others, but one, are not worth mentioning. The one was volunteering in the California Bobby Kennedy  primary campaign for President. That was a heady experience for an 18-year-old. Met a ton of people, painted a zillion signs [I’m an illustrator and graphic designer, in addition to writing], and generally had the time of my life, concentrating on young, undecided ladies on campus with my newly acquired political arguments. June 5 came, I attended the victory party at the Ambassador Hotel, and was in a standing-room only packed crowd near the back wall of the ballroom, where Bobby had just finished speaking. We were making so much noise that no one near me heard the shot. We just felt the shock wave as the front of the ballroom, near the exist to the kitchen, surged forward, then recoiled back, with the recoil reaching us in accelerated speed and force. Some of us lost our feet. Immediately behind the moving wave came the sudden shock of grief, not knowing yet what happened, but the grief and fear was unmistakable. In that brief moment, jubilation – for we were already certain that if Bobby won California, he would sweep the primaries and take the nomination – all blew up like a balloon. Bobby Kennedy had been shot.
I have never felt so much fear in my life, ad never have since. I am still very wary of crowds, uncomfortable to the point of visible nervousness. And my interest in politics died with Bobby, and stayed dead for the next 20 years.
What the hell does this incident have to do with Covid-19? Crowded rooms. Staying home, isolated, is as natural to me as that fear was that night. As long as I’m home, I’m safe. And I am as vindictive against China as I was against Sirhan Sirhan then. If both are never seen under the sun again, I’m fine. Later that year, as the Democrat National Convention crowd outside in Chicago chanted, “The whole world is watching.” I boarded the plane to France, and all that was left behind.
II Rare earth magnets
II.a My first introduction to P.R.C was in the late 1980s due their world-leading resource of rare earth minerals, Neodymium and Samarium. The powerful magnets these elements make are unmatched in magnetic force, and is why they are used in every single hard disk drive manufactured in the world. As my esteemed opponent related, China is the source of 80% of these magnets; a significant resource monopoly. In fact, my company – not mine, I just worked there as an engineer – Conner Peripherals, was the first company to produce 3.5” hard disk drives which drove the fledgling laptop market, and made us, at the time, the nation’s fastest-growing enterprise in the history of American business at that time in 1989, reaching Fortune 500 status in four years from launch of the company. When C.P. went public, all owners of founders’ stock were instant millionaires, literally. Including me; a 40-year-old engineer. My responsibility was the supply of NdFeB magnets, among other components. I’ve been all over the eastern seaboard and near interior of China so many times, I’ve lost count. My take from that business experience in China: I don’t trust them as far as I could throw one of their sintering ovens. They weight several tons. 
II.b That goes for their claim of number of deaths, let alone anything else they say about their leading export of 2020. Just today, I heard/watched a news release that China, President Xi, announced a tightening grip on all investigation into the origin of the Covid-19 virus.[1] If they’ve had just thousands of deaths [under 10k], what are they hiding? If they really know who and where patient 0 was, what are they hiding? If they have really beaten the virus, and are opening their wet markets,[2] what are they hiding? Sounds like time to start trying to lift and throw a sintering oven again.
II.c However, the market for rare earth magnets is declining. The star on the horizon to support magnetic storage, and other uses, appears to be cerium-cobalt [CeCo3and CeCo3, and this magnetic material meets the technical demands and is readily available outside of China.[3]
III The WTO is leading from behind [heard that somewhere before: the “leading from behind” bit]
III.a Yes, the U.S.-China trade status is tenuous. When has that not been the case since our trade imbalance over the last 40 years. The U.S. negative export-to-import ratio of $500B per year, just with China, is only growing.  Yes, WTO should be able to break in to combat China’s trade policies, the which my opponent claims, and he is correct, that the U.S. usually wins in our disputes with China over trade policy violations, but the one leading aspect of these violations, WTO is, so far, powerless to prevent: China’s continuous currency manipulation. Yes, the MFN nations, and certainly others, may suffer by action against China. But, somewhere along the line, somebody’s got to redline the Chinese border. Enough deception, enough destruction, enough debate over poor China. They ain’t so poor, and maybe some humility on their part is a bitter, cultural disgrace, but I, for one, am bloody tired of their demands and excuses. Our military caused the release of Covid-19? What the hell is the U.S. military doing in the middle of a Chinese forest deep in China’s interior? Fabricating Xi’s fantasies? Enough. Democrats trying to get rid of Trump have better stories than that.  
III.b The answer to our dilemma is not yet another appeal to WTO, though, surely, we will, and not expect any different result. After all, isn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity? No. This time, with America already demonstrating American strength and dominance in the world – and we have and are, in spite of covid-19 – America should lead the trading world of MFN nations to embargo Chinese trade until they capitulate on their refusal to allow investigation of Covid-19, and the harm they have caused to MFN nations by virtue of their responsibility for Covid-19.

Round 3
I’ll start with my opponent’s constructive case in R1 and then defend my case. Here goes nothing.
China’s failure to combat diseases
I agree that China’s lackluster response has allowed Covid-19 to fester. However, my opponent makes a critical error by assuming that unilateral sanctions can achieve his goal. The only touted victory of the ongoing trade war with China was an easily subverted trade deal. The main proviso of the deal is Chinese purchases of American products worth no less than $200 billion dollars (1). However, the deal contains a loophole that undermines the very integrity of the deal. The accord allows China to object to purchases “based on commercial considerations,” which means they could still reject prices and terms of those purchases (2). Associate Professor Chad E. Hart of Iowa State University notes that China could simply not fulfill the commitments under the plan if the “market does not support it” (3). Of course, China could simply decide not to purchase American goods and enjoy the minor respite from tariffs or drag their feet on purchasing US goods.
If this is the only victory that can be attained with unilateral trade impediments, then it is not a strong indicator of increased compliance on publishing internal data to the public, which China has been notably reticent about in previous years. It’s equally likely that China, detecting further animosity from Washington, starts divesting from the US and leaning on its more amiable trade partners. Cross-apply my BRICS, Russia, and BRI examples from my constructive case which shows that this is already happening.

In fact, sanctions against China may run counter to our intentions. Autocratic regimes tend to respond to sanctions by augmenting their totalitarian grasp on the people. Reed Wood of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, using sanctions data spanning 20 years, enumerates this relationship when he found that even minor US sanctions increased the probability that an autocratic regime increases physical repression of its people to the most severe category repression calculated in the study by 7%, and at the extreme end of US sanctions, that number doubles to 14% (4). One-party nations like China have absolute control of state apparatuses and can reallocate resources to fend off the impact of sanctions to loyal supporters while marginalizing dissidents. Autocratic regimes under duress tend to levy taxes on goods and services to fill the void left by reduced trade and FDI (5), which means that sanctions fail to catalyze change. In fact, previous threats against China after the Tiananmen Square horror indicate that China was more reluctant to kowtow to US demands publicly, but when the US adopted a conciliatory tone and backpedaled away from incendiary rhetoric and MFN removal, China lessened draconian restrictions and released political prisoners (6). Ergo, sanctions are not conducive to US foreign policy goals.

Even if you don’t buy these arguments, the new tariffs will almost certainly tear the trade deal to shreds as both sides impede trade once again, taking us back to square one.

Not “Off with their heads!” dear red queen, but more than a slap on the wrist

The moderate tone struck by my opponent is appreciated but not consistent with his goals. If we are only imposing minor fiscal penalties, then where is the incentive for China to reinvigorate efforts to fix its policy of not submitting data to the international community? Besides, is rescinding China’s status in the WTO and its MFN status a moderate move? I can hardly expect China to classify these punishments as minor. They’re basically unprecedented. There is no formal mechanism for unilaterally removing a WTO member (7). The best the US has done was prevent judges from being assigned to the Appellate court (7), which was reversed by the ingenuity of 14 countries that devised a stop gap measure to continue the arbitration process (8). Also, even minor penalties can spark another round of escalatory trade sanctions and irate castigations, which, as I’ve mentioned in my original case, would cause employment and consumption to plummet.
My opponent is stuck in a double bind. Either sanctions pose enough of a bite to force China’s hand, or they have the impact of me emptying a glass of water into the Pacific Ocean. The threshold of political change needs to be met for any of Pro’s net offense to manifest, and that requires China to be overwhelmed with sanctions to the point that they would acquiesce to the US. Even if he does reach it, we must weigh that against the economic impact.

All have a right to be free; none have the right to take it from another

Thank you for explaining the Kant quote. The first time I looked at it, my eyes glazed over, and I started thinking of quiche, frat-houses, and the inevitable heat death of the universe.

While interesting, Kant’s ideas of retributive justice are not useful to policy makers. Yes, we can all agree that China does bad things. The method by which we remedy them is important though, as some punishments are more tenable than others. The fact that major industries will take a hit in the event of continued trade wars and retaliatory sanctions, the insolvency of Pro’s plan, and the viability of other institutions to try China should show that unilateral sanctions are not the preferred method of punishing China. I ask the judges to value my framework which simply asks that any action taken in punishing China should benefit the US.

I’ll go over my case next.

He never addresses my framework, so extend it across the debate.

Rare Earth Magnets

My opponent’s distrust of the Chinese government and companies is fair. The response Pro offered to my point about rare earth metals needs clarification. As his own source notes, the ferromagnets produced are weaker than rare earth metals, and apply to some commercial products – excluding military applications from their usage (9). The source also notes that the potential application of cerium in the future is a mere possibility, suggesting the possibility “someday” (9). So, in the interim, while we wait for substitutes for rare earth metals from China, we only have a tentative pathway toward producing some of the rare earth metals necessary that aren’t as powerful as military technology.

Also, extend my arguments concerning a decrease in jobs and consumption due to retaliatory tariffs and the potential for reduced PPE in the US as China leverages its monopoly to harm the US. During the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses closed en masse, and unemployment jumped. Is this really the time to start another trade war?

The WTO is leading from behind [heard that somewhere before: the “leading from behind” bit

I heard the “leading from behind” phrase too, and I don’t completely buy it. Pro and I both agree that to an extent, the WTO has been successful in coercing China to pay for their rampant IP theft. The primary objection that my opponent has brought to the table is currency manipulation. Under US law, China does not meet the criteria to be deemed a currency manipulator. There are three different boxes that need to be checked for China to be considered one:

1) Significant bilateral trade surplus with the United States
2) Material current account surplus (it’s waning in China) (10)
3) Persistent, one-sided intervention (in the foreign exchange markets, China has reduced this) (10)

The Treasury Department’s figures indicate that China meets one of those criterion (a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US,) but not the other two (10). To be fair, the Treasury, at one point, did label China a currency manipulator, but this was later rescinded once the renminbi (yuan) appreciated in value vis-à-vis the dollar (11).

To me though, this is irrelevant.  The phase one trade deal mandates that China must publish data on their exchange rates (1). If we want to keep China in the deal, assuming they comply, it would be inopportune to spark new tensions after they agreed to this requirement. The language of the initial deal also demanded that China refrain from intentionally devaluing their currency, which they already agreed to do this previously per its commitments to G20 (1).
If you feel that the prospects of the deal are dubious (like me,) then another issue still presents itself. There is no reason suggest that the WTO is incapable of handling issues related to currency manipulation. Pro said that it hasn’t been done before, but neither is unilaterally stripping the membership of another member nation. I offer reasons why the WTO is a superior forum for mediating trade disputes in my previous case. They include:
The decisions are fairer thanks to mixed rulings.
Sanctions are temporary, heavily regulated, and most importantly a last resort for resolving disputes.
And, we have a proven track record with the forum.

All of these facets of the WTO breeds complicity, unlike unilateral sanctions, which decreases Chinese FDI, turns the country toward other trade partners, and hurts the US economy (see my card about over 100k jobs being lost due to tariffs and retaliatory sanctions.)

I’m no fan of Chinese policy, but realpolitik supplants retributive justice any day. While a popular idea in the current zeitgeist, other approaches are less costly to the American people and government. As It stands, the policy proposed would cause immense job displacement, possibly starve the US of vital resources, and do diddly squat in getting China to comply because a) they have other export markets, b) sanctions have rarely worked, and c) by expelling them from the WTO, they are less incentivized to help us. This is a time for sagacious stewardship, not retribution.

Thank you for the interesting debate, by the way.


I China’s failure to combat Covid-19: Bats in the Belfry in 2018
I.a A news release on 4/14 reported cables issued from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China warning the State Department in January 2018 that there were concerns regarding a lab in Wuhan, China investigating reports of unsafe conditions in the lab while studying theCovid-19 virus borne in bats.[1] The report also indicates that US Embassy officials visited the lab, Wuhan Institute of Virology, a designated  BSL-4 lab[2] [bioresearch safety lab], several times up to March 27, 2018, sending cables of warning, and that WIV released news reports about the last visit.[3] According to Gordon Chang, foreign affairs expert, "many Chinese believe the virus either was deliberately released or accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a P4-level bio-safety facility,"[4] long with the BSL-designation.
 “The first cable, [sent by U.S. Embassy, Beijing] which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic,”[5] said WaPo reporter, Josh Rogin.
 “There are similar concerns about the nearby Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab, which operates at biosecurity level 2, a level significantly less secure than the level-4 standard claimed by the Wuhan Insititute of Virology lab, Xiao said. [the director of research at WIV]That’s important because the Chinese government still refuses to answer basic questions about the origin of the novel coronavirus while suppressing any attempts to examine whether either lab was involved,”[6] the Wapo report added. 
The vague report from the Chinese government that Covid-19 originated in a wet market blocks away from WIV via bats was later considered “shaky.” According to the WaPo 4/14 report, bats are not sold at this market; it is strictly a seafood market.[7]
The above reports indicate that Chinese awareness of the potential danger of Covid-19 was known, and went unreported by them to WHO for at least two yearsbefore 
they finally issued notice. I should rest my case on that announcement, alone, coupled with my round 2 argument citing the report from 4/13 that the Chinese government was shutting down further investigation into the origin of the virus; China bears full responsibility for the pandemic.
I.b By the way, there has been no evidence uncovered to suggest the merit of the Chinese government charge that the U.S. Military, allegedly conducting maneuvers in a Chinese forest, were responsible for the outbreak.
I.c Root cause analysis concludes that China failed to contain Covid-19 within a classified, BSL/P4 lab, a classification which is given because such a lab is not supposed to allow such release. And WHO failed to advise the world of the urgency of the outbreak, siding with China to withhold critically need health issues affecting the world. There can be no parsing of responsibility here of other contributors to this conspiracy of dark news.
II “China should be legally liable for the pandemic damage it has done”[8]
II.a The opinion piece title above, released by the Washington Post on April 9, 2020, by columnist Marc Thiessen, states, “Somebody has to pay for this unprecedented damage. That somebody should be the government of China.”[9]  I argue that WHO must share in that penalty. The opinion goes on to say that while the government could not be blamed for the outbreak, that it was out of their direct control, and WHO’s oversight control, but I’ll digress from that opinion with the news of 4/14 from the same media outlet that China was well aware of the potential safety problems at the WIV lab in early 2018! It is apparent that those concerns related directly to issues of containment,and were expressed in that same time frame of 2018 by the lab director. The Chinese government was derelict in its duty to have the lab shore-up its deficiencies, and accomplish that long before the incident of outbreak, which has yet to be fully disclosed on a timeline that anybody will accept outside the Chinese government and WHO.
III Framework: more than a slap on the wrist; prevent the robbery of freedom
III.a The Chinese government could easily make reparation to the U.S. simply by forgiving the debt owed to them, at least up to the amount that is actually owed if the value of the debt by the U.S. is less than the total costs of U.S. reaction to the pandemic in the U.S. AS of January 2020 the total U.S. debt to China amounts to $1.08 trillion.[10] There’s room to cover even the aid package to every adult and child in the U.S. , and to small businesses the President signed a week ago, and another, if need be. The same could be done to other MFN nations impacted by the virus which also carry debt to the PRC.
III.b This is a doable alternative to an embargo of Chinese trade to MFN nations, but if China balks at forgiving debt, it is one alternative that must be considered as equitable penalty.
III.c However, the foregoing does not address WHO’s complicity. The 4/14 announce by President Trump solves this aspect of applied penalty. WHO produces nothing but the acquisition and assessment of data, and its punishment should not be a drain on any nation such as caused by China’s culpability. As an information gatherer, examiner, and distributor, WHO’s funding interruption by Trump impacts WHO directly, and the people who are employed there. From that perspective, it is of little comfort that the employees, prevented from doing the right thing by the administration of WHO, who suffer, while it is the administration which is complicit with China in withholding that which employees knew and were prevented from releasing, just as the Chinese government withheld information their scientists knew was contrary to the truth. Since WHO is a wholly administered function of the U.N., the latter body should be compelled to issue sanctions against the existing WHO administration, sparing the organization’s scientists who were opposed to the administration’s tactics in stifling what that organization is mandated to do: freely distribute vital, critical information.
IV Rare earth, scorched earth
IV.a I acknowledge my opponent’s critique of the current status of the alternative magnetics of CeCo3 and CeCo5[the latter misidentified in my round 2]. However, I argue the American dominance in repeated examples of historic accelerated innovation in times of crisis, from the mastery of electricity by Edison and Tesla to the solution of a potentially lethal consequence on Apollo 13, solved by scientists and technicians separated by two day’s flight into the lunar landing mission from the spacecraft and its crew. Innovation in crisis. Americans have proved their innovative prowess in critical situations before; they will do so now.
IV.b Likewise, we cannot allow the complicity of China and WHO to impact American workers directly affected by Covid-19’s careless release. The funds expended as an emergency response by the Trump administration and Congress should also be exacted as consequence and recompense by China, reimbursed by U.S. debt forgiveness, as argued earler. If China balks, WTO comes to U.S.A’s defense, yet again.
In closing. My admiration to my friend and opponent for exemplary conduct during this debate. With one round to go, I am confident we can conclude in like manner. After all, this mess cannot be laid at our feet; of that I am confident, if of nothing else.

Round 4
I thank my opponent for his cogent response and cordiality.

China’s failure to combat Covid-19: Bats in the Belfry in 2018

Even if China is solely to blame, the crux of this debate is economic penalties. I agree that to an extent, China has a role to play in the spread of the virus due to their neglect, (although, we shouldn’t be throwing stones given the baffling dearth of foresight exhibited by our institutions and leaders albeit not as extreme as China’s malfeasance,) but culpability does not justify sanctions. Sanctions need to produce tangible policy change to benefit the US. So far, Pro hasn’t established the solvency of his provisions.

On the other hand, I proffered data covering losses in job security, declining FDI, increased consumer prices, and Chinese resilience to sanctions imposed on them. Weigh these arguments against retributive justice. If the benefactor of economic retribution should be the US, why are US constituents forced to weather a sundry of adverse externalities?

As a side note, the possibility that the Covid-19 virus escaped from a lab is slim. Coronavirus samples taken from bats and pangolins are similar to Covid-19’s structure, indicating that the Covid-19 generated from zoonotic interaction with humans (1). Also, the unique “hook” structure that binds to ACE-2 enzymes in the human body were not predicted from any computational analysis, yet, the mechanism proved to be effective. If this were a virus that was somehow tampered with at wither facility, why would they choose an infection method that computers predicted was not possible (1)? Pro never articulates why the biosecurity levels matter either. Why is BSL 2 insufficient? The CDC’s guidelines for Covid-19 testing in the US allow certain testing procedures to take place in BSL 2 labs (2). Until irrevocable proof surfaces, this theory is only spurious conjecture. Just as there is no evidence for America’s military being responsible for the spread, there is similarly no evidence for Chinese lab involvement, intentional or otherwise.

“China should be legally liable for the pandemic damage it has done”

Perhaps China was remiss in its duty, but why should WHO take a share of the blame? If they were given doctored data from China, they wouldn’t have many avenues to prove it. Irrespective of blame attribution, this point does not at all suggest that China will respond favorably to our sanctions at all. That’s problematic, because if we want China to improve pandemic reporting, then this could happen again.

Framework: more than a slap on the wrist; prevent the robbery of freedom

Generally, it is considered bad form to present an entirely new plan the round before the last. Normative debate ethics suggest that a plan should be presented in the first round so as to not saddle the last Con speech with an additional burden that was hitherto unmentioned. That said, I intend to elucidate why this new plan is approximately as harmful to US interests as the previous one. The plan, as it were, entails China forgiving about $1 trillion dollars in debt as well as sanctions from the UN. If China balks at this, my opponent suggests revoking the MFN status then. Let’s dive in.

1) Value of the Dollar & Treasury Bond

Even as the US tries to wean itself off import dependency, it is important to remember our long-standing dependence. As I noted previously, key inputs in consumer products, including steel, depend on the global supply chain. Instituting trade barriers increases expenses toward accessing other markets that provide companies with cheap inputs. Tariffs are a fairly direct path toward increasing prices, as shown in my constructive case (see how steel products jumped in price by 9%). However, an equally important factor is the value of the dollar. A weaker dollar means that importing goods is more expensive, while a strong dollar means that each unit of currency is able to purchase more goods, making imports cheaper (3). If China cedes to US pressure and forgives $1 trillion dollars of US debt, it signals to foreign investors that treasuries are riskier than previously thought, which drives down the value of the dollar since treasury notes are dollar-denominated, meaning that the value of the dollar is pegged to demand for US bonds (4). After all, the US could use its leverage to target other holders of debt. Would governments trust the US to offer bonds in good faith? Certainly not China, which uses a bulk of its greenbacks on US treasuries. In conjunction with a depreciated dollar, one can expect the value of treasuries to fall too. Lower demand for US treasuries increases interest rates and yield, making borrowing in the US harder since banks set their lending rates in conjunction with treasury yields (5). Funding US deficits becomes harder too, since trading partners are less likely to fork over money to buy bonds which fund the government. Again, at a time in which the US economy is struggling for air, these moves may prolong the depression.

2) Enforcement

My opponent suggests that if China fails to forgive the debt, that MFN be rescinded. Since there is no enforcement mechanism to force compliance, and the renminbi would technically be worth more than the US dollar in the event that debt is forgiven (driving down Chinese exports which have fueled their economy), the latter case would be more likely. In which case, I have access to all of my impacts regarding employment, rare earth metals, and increasing consumer prices.

3) How are UN sanctions against WHO better?

First, let me clarify that the UN, as an institution, cannot unilaterally sanctions a body. The Security Council is typically the body that approves sanctions to begin with, typically against other nations (6). Moreover, the WHO is primarily funded through contributions from member states (7). So, the US is well within its means to restrict its own funding, but other nations are free to do what they please regarding funding. So, I don’t know if a supreme international organization can sanction an organ, (just as Congress probably can’t sanction the Ways and Means Committee or the FBI) but the closest sanction that could feasibly happen is the plethora of funding nations freezing future contributions to WHO, essentially defunding it. As my opponent notes:

“…it is of little comfort that the employees, prevented from doing the right thing by the administration of WHO, who suffer, while it is the administration which is complicit with China in withholding that which employees knew and were prevented from releasing, just as the Chinese government withheld information their scientists knew was contrary to the truth”

If we sympathize with the employees of WHO, then further sanctions will only exacerbate job attrition from the WHO. How does one spare the scientists as Pro desired? I don’t know, and my opponent doesn’t clarify this.

Rare earth, scorched earth

Pro contends that US innovation can remedy the problem of rare earth metals. In the long run, he might be right, but:

a) innovation is hard to predict, and

b) in the meantime, while we wait for universities and private businesses to invest in research, the dependence on rare earth metals doesn’t suddenly vanish. Military hardware and consumer products depend on the availability of rare earth metals now, and it might take years, maybe decades, to completely wean off the elusive metals.

Don’t gamble the solvency of our markets and military on the promise of future innovation. It might not happen as we expect it to. Extend my issues with the source he uses, which shows that military hardware won’t be able to be run through this supposedly new method, and the article notes that the process is not being used widely now.

As far as the WTO coming to our defense, the fact that we have actively undermined the GATT by imposing sanctions without going through the proper channels should make us think that in this instance, the WTO might not rule in favor of us. As I mentioned before, sanctions are regimented, temporary, and most importantly, a last resort. Practices that undermine free market competition are likely to be ruled in our favor, but under the GATT, I seriously doubt that there are measures that compel one country to forgive the debt of another. Under the auspices of international jurisprudence, even the US is not offered a shield of impunity.
On to voting issues.

Voting Issues

1) US Dependence

Over 100,000 jobs rests on the continual relationship between China and the US. Erecting a mammoth trade barrier and exchanging retaliatory sanctions puts these jobs at risk. When people are not employed, they cannot spend their disposable income (also facilitated by rising prices due to costlier inputs being imported from other countries or produced here,) so other companies fall as the economy stops churning. Also note the importance of PPE and rare earth metals. PPE is needed for the Covid-19 breakout, and rare earth metals are needed for basically all electronics in the US. Both are jeopardized in the event of continued trade wars. Vote con to maintain the homeostasis between the US and China. Given the current economic crisis, rampant unemployment, and shuttering businesses, this is not the time to take an economic hit of such magnitude.

2) Chinese Obstinance

Extend my unaddressed point about autocratic regimes being impervious to unilateral sanctions. China wont bow to US pressure as shown through my Tiananmen Square example and through numerous studies. China is also able to pivot away from the US toward less fussy trading partners, including members of BRICS and states that signed onto the BRI. With this in mind, there is almost no doubt that China can inoculate itself from the impact of sanctions sufficiently more than the US can.

3) WTO is Needed

Generally, the US wins cases against China through the WTO. Removing China from the WTO and stripping them of their MFN status means that they are no longer under the jurisdiction of WTO guidelines. Even if a nation can unilaterally strip the membership of a trade giant like China, doing so precludes an avenue to address the complaints of businesses who have had their IP stolen. The price of IP theft is in the hundred-billions, putting US companies at a disadvantage.

4) Framing

My framework, which focuses on US benefits from US sanctions, has not been soundly refuted. As I mentioned before, realpolitik supplants retributive justice when discussing foreign policy. As a state actor, even if we deem China of all the bad things in the world, we would still need to see returns on our policy.
Once again, I would like to thank my esteemed opponent and judges. Please vote Con.


By agreement. by PM, I waive my final round.

I think this has been an excellent debate. Well done, my friend.