In the discussion of the likely case areas, I didn’t focus on likely plan mechanisms. I do think that methods of engagement that either increase or decrease pressure on China (and ones that do both) are likely topical/considered to be engagement, though some good T debaters will be good at winning “interpretation”/limits debates in either direction.
Regardless, however, most plans will move in one direction (increased or decreased pressure) and this creates opportunities to start thinking about strategy. The beginning of that is thinking about disadvantages that link to increased pressure and those that link to decreased pressure/more accommodating approaches.
Increased Pressure Disadvantages
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) stability. If China were to change its policies in response to US pressure, this could undermine the legitimacy of the CCP and/or contribute to governmental infighting. This could undermine the ability of the CCP to implement particular economic reforms, make it more aggressive internationally, or accelerate military development. In the past, some teams have even argued this could lead to the collapse of the CCP.
US-China relations. Greater pressure on China would likely lead to disruptions in US-China relations. There is a lot of good impact evidence that claims that strong US-China relations are important to resolve many different global problems. As just discussed, strong US-China relations could also undermine China-Russia relations and teams could argue it is bad for China and Russia to have strong relations.
Decreased Pressure Disadvantages
China aggression. There is an entire body of literature devoted to the question of whether or not the US should contain China. Containment advocates argue that we need a strong posture vis-à-vis China in order to deter China’s military aggression. This disadvantage will argue that going “soft” on China will encourage China’s aggression.
Smith (2015) argues that engagement of China that is aimed at integrating China economically has failed because of China’s perceptions of US relative decline, a growth in assertive Chinese nationalism, and increased repression.
US Elections. Approaches toward China that are “soft” will likely be bashed by Republicans as threatening US military and economic interests. Teams will argue this bashing will make it more likely the Republicans will win and that a Republican victory will be bad.
US political capital. Pushing “soft” approaches toward China through Congress is likely to burn Presidential political capital. Similarly, unilateral actions by the President are also likely to alienate at least the Republican side of Congress and burn capital.
Maral Noori, US Institute of Peace, August 2015, Overcoming Barriers to US-China Cooperation, http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/PB192-Overcoming-Barriers-to-US-China-Cooperation.pdf DOA: 4-11-16
Political interests undermine the bilateral relationship. U.S. hard-liners fear an increasingly powerful China. The military threat is used both to rationalize increasing U.S. defense funding and to counter any Obama administration attempt to constructively engage China. Even the U.S.-China climate change and clean energy cooperation joint announcement was denounced, with Republicans complaining that China would not be required to make changes for sixteen years.
Human rights leadership. The uniqueness for this will be difficult to win, but positively engaging China may undercut US leadership on human rights, undermining US global human rights promotion. Similarly, teams may argue that positive engagement may undermine undermine US leadership on global democracy, threatening democracy world-wide.
CCP stability. This disadvantage also links to soft line approaches that claim to change China’s behavior in particular areas because those changes could be seen as caving in to the West.
Russia-China alliance. Reducing pressure on China could cause China to align more with the US, reducing China’s cooperation with Russia. The impacts include arguments as to why it is good for China and Russia to develop strong ties.
Japan. Soft-line policies, particularly military soft line policies, could anger and scare Japan and other US allies in the region that rely on the US to contain China.
Disadvantages Specific to Interacting with China
As discussed in the topicality section, there is a strong negative topicality argument that says the plan needs to involve some interaction with China in order to constitute engagement.
While many disadvantages can link to the outcome of the engagement, there are two that are relatively unique to the engagement.
The first, and best, is Diplomatic Capital. This disadvantage argues that when the US negotiates with China that it consumes the resources and focus of the Department of State and that the DOS would be better off using the resources to work toward the resolution of another crisis, such as the one in Syria.
Similarly, it may be possible to spin a unique link story for the CCP stability disadvantage that argues that interacting with the US may produce some political disruption.
Human rights and democracy leadership may also be undermined by interacting with China.
Disadvantages that Aren’t Specific to a Type of Plan
There are many disadvantages that stem from the result of the plan rather than the adoption/implementation of the plan. The plan might increase China’s economic growth, but Chinese growth might trigger inflation, or destroy the environment and support military modernization. Similarly, the plan may slow down China’s conventional force modernization, but that may support greater nuclear modernization, which may be worse. Similarly, if China’s nuclear modernization declines, it may shift to a stronger conventional force posture. This may make military conflict more likely. Similarly, teams may claim to restrain the development of nuclear weapons but others may argue that nuclear proliferation is good. Others may claim to sustain or increase US global hegemony, but Negative teams may argue this makes conflict more likely.
Impact turn strategies can represent good strategic choices when there are a limited number of common advantages on a topic and the total number of likely add-ons that any Affirmative team is likely to read will be limited. If not, it is difficult for teams relying on impact turns to at least play enough defense on all of the other advantages so that the impact turns can outweigh if the win them.