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Threat, or no threat?

In a spirited debate, Kellogg faculty and students consider whether the U.S. should welcome — or fear — an increasingly powerful China

By Sara Langen

The specter of China as an economic and political threat seems to be looming over the American zeitgeist, becoming a hot topic in everything from the latest issue of The Economist to an episode of the popular sitcom “The Office.”

The Kellogg Student Association’s Global Affairs and Academic committees joined the China discourse on Dec. 2 by hosting a Kellogg debate on the rise of China. More than 130 students listened to two teams — each comprised of a faculty member and student — debate the motion “developed countries like the U.S. should feel threatened by China’s rapid economic growth and increasing global dominance.”

Modeled after BBC’s “The Doha Debates,” the debate format included questions from the audience and electronic polls to monitor the audience’s opinion. The first poll, held before the debate, found 67 percent of the audience in favor of the motion and 33 percent against it.

(The views expressed by the participants do not necessarily reflect their true and actual views on the topic, or that of the Kellogg School of Management.)

Paul Christensen, senior lecturer of finance and associate director of international business and markets, spoke in favor of the motion that China is a threat. During his argument, he addressed five key economic challenges posed by China, including intellectual property rights, ownership of U.S. debt, competition for global resources, trade deficits and currency manipulation. His teammate Mauro Mujica-Parodi `11 spoke to the military and geopolitical risks of China.

 
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“Even if the benefits of China’s growth have indeed spilled over to the U.S. and other nations, it’s important to realize that China does pose a number of serious economic, military and political challenges today,” Christensen said.

Opposing the motion, Hari Sripathi `11 noted that China is an important part of the supply chain. His teammate, Assistant Professor of Management and Strategy Alberto Salvo, said the U.S. should welcome China’s growing economic power.

“If the U.S. tries to shut out China, it will become irrelevant,” Salvo said. “China is not going away. With its 1.3 billion people and its nuclear capability, the real threat would lie in a declining China.”

After a rousing question-and-answer period, the audience voted again on whether China posed a threat to the U.S. This time, votes were split 50/50. Amid laughter, moderator David Besanko, the Alvin J. Huss Professor of Management and Strategy, assured everyone the voting wasn’t fixed. “This is not rigged, but it is a very Kelloggian outcome,” he joked.

Students said they hope the debate will be the first in a series of Kellogg debates.

“This is a great initiative by the KSA,” said Srini Gopalan `11. “Macro-level debates are a must. I would be glad to participate in such debates in the future.