Peking University HSBC Business School and the Oxford Union’s Inaugural Varsity Debate
40 years after the Chinese Economic Reform, on the 28th of November 2018 (2030 GMT), Oxford Union organised the first inter-varsity debate since their founding in 1823 between the students of the University of Oxford and the students of Peking University. The debate, conducted in the world famous Debating Chamber of the Oxford Union, was on the topic: “This House Believes China Is The Best Model For Developing Countries”.
The team from Peking University HSBC Business School formed the proposition, and they are represented by student speakers Ms Ziwei Liu, Mr Roman Xia, and Mr Giovanni Tuccari. The opposition team from the Oxford Union is represented by student speakers Mr Harry Webster, Ms Christine Jiang, and Mr Lee Chin Wee. The debate is chaired by the student president of the Oxford Union, Mr Stephen Howarth. ￼
The first speaker for the proposition, Ms Ziwei Liu, started the debate by defining ‘developing countries’ and outlining the China model: (1) the creation of more national wealth and resources, (2) how to catch up to current developed economies, and (3) the experience for continued economic sustainability.
The first speaker for the opposition, Mr Harry Webster, counter-argued that the China Model cannot be replicated in any country because of the historical and political history of China; It has been economically stable for millennia with vast geographical lands and natural resources at its disposal. Coupled with a central system of governance, the China model is unique and its success cannot be replicated.￼￼
The proposition’s second speaker, Mr Roman Xia pointed out that before the Reform, 90% of the Chinese people lived in extreme poverty, and China’s natural advantages are not obstacles to the China Model. Instead, they should be taken as experiential models for the developing countries as can be seen from the results of infrastructural development and improvements in sanitation and public health in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The opposition’s second speaker, Ms Christine Jiang, pointed out that the Chinese system of central governance allows China to execute changes and reforms rapidly which promotes the efficiency and efficacy of China’s economical reforms. As many developing countries have a different system of governance, it is far more difficult to enact a system of changes and reforms as quickly and efficiently as China.
The proposition concludes with Mr Giovanni Tuccari, who asserted that politics has no role in economics as seen in the establishment of the Social Economic Zones (SEZs). This zonal system of autonomous governance is responsible for the sustainability, transferability, and success of the China Model. As Mr Tuccari pointed out: he is an Italian student, studying in the United Kingdom, in a Chinese University - all of which would not have been made possible without the China Model.￼￼
The debate concluded with the opposition’s final speaker Mr Lee Chin Wee who argued that economics and politics are interconnected and interdependent, which is problematic because economic policies can be erroneously perceived as political moves to gain influence, or as the creation of a debt trap allowing for corruption and autocratic behaviour to run amok. Therefore, Mr Wee believes that the China Model, with its unique system of governance and economic success cannot be replicated.￼￼
The debate itself was a rousing success because it resulted in the beginning of a lifelong friendship between two great universities. The Chairman of the Oxford Union, Mr Stephen Howarth commented the quality of this debate is of high quality and both sides made their points succinctly during the debate. Professor Guy Liu summed up the essence of this debate, “Both teams have done well from the technical perspective. Our students embodied the best qualities of the Chinese spirit and projected it onto the world stage. Despite not being native speakers of English, our students have put in a tremendous amount of effort. The students performed above and beyond all expectations. Well Done!”￼￼
Photos courtesy of Zoë Toone & The Oxford Union