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There is nothing like a debate on a thought-provoking topic to get brains buzzing, ideas sprouting and an audience completely engaged. That was the scene at Knox for our last Fall Forum as we gathered for the Academy debate – Be it resolved that the 21st Century Belongs to China.

Providing the insight and information were four very able Academy members – On the Pro side – Pat MacDonald and Linda Tu; on the Con side – Brian O’Leary and Beth Davey. The discussion was expertly managed by practiced moderator Ernie Fallen.

We started the debate with 33 for, 12 opposed, and 10 undecided, but all attendees were eager to hear a spirited discussion that might sway their opinions.

Arguments, both for and against, focused on elements such as economic and technological development, innovation, population, education, military might, infrastructure development, political might, ideologies and culture. While the debate was not intended to be a direct China vs. the United States scenario, it was inevitable that comparisons would be drawn with our neighbor to the south that seems to be looking inward and drawing away while China increases investment globally and evolves to accept elements of the west – like learning English. On the flip side, the U.S. maintains its entrepreneurial culture and provides a direct foil to the corrupt, restrictive and environmentally toxic situation in China.

Spirited contributions from the floor swung the pendulum over to Pro and then back to Con as the debate progressed. And then a very thought-provoking idea emerged from the audience – what about a scenario where war and pollution and famine causes everything to crumble in the 21st Century, where, perhaps, we return to the clan system? The introduction of this third option really made me think about what was possible and changed my own vote.

A final tally was as follows – 21 pro; 26 con; undecided 8 – considerably different from when we started.
You know that a debate is successful when the audience leaves the room with the air still humming with discussion, and that was certainly the case in this instance. Much appreciation to debaters Pat, Linda, Brian and Beth and to moderator Ernie for giving us so much to think about.