top of page

mechanics of debate

There are different types of Chinese debate formats.  Two that we have had first hand experience are Debate Asia's own format (4 to a team, with grand cross-fire added in before the final focus) and 奧瑞岡制 (3 to a team), which originated in Oregon back in the 1970s. 

Below is a video description of 奧瑞岡制, which we will use for most of our debates. 

So, there are two teams, with three debaters to a team.

正方:正一, 正二,正三


Each position is different. The speech for the first position (正ㄧ,反ㄧ) is 100% pre-written and states the overall contention of their side.  The first cross-examination by either side (反二 > 正ㄧ,正三>反ㄧ)is mainly for cross-examining team to clarify and delineate the overall position of the opposing team, so that the former knows where to "strike" in the following speeches.  In a sense, the first cross-examiner (反二 or 正三)sets up the "ball" for the next debater to launch the attack.  Since 正ㄧ and 反ㄧ mainly read out their pre-written speeches and answer basic question about their positions, it is less taxing for those two debaters.

The speech of the second and third position can not be 100% pre-written, especially the third position. So, the team/coaches need to write down the basic script for common scenario, sort of Question & Answer. The third position typically is more adept at thinking quickly on the spot and forming their own speeches, base on the Q&A sheet.  The third position typically would then make the final focus, the concluding remark to tell judge why his/her team should win the debate. 

Students need to read-aloud all these documents (1st speech + Q&A) repeatedly at home so that they can respond quickly when getting cross-examined and coming up with the second or third speech (for 正二、正三 and 反二、反三).


After teams are matched for a debate, the rest of the training starts within class period, with the coach's guidance.  The teams are free to meet outside of class time for additional practice.  The task of the noncompeting students are to become loyal opposition team to help the competing students prepare.  More specifically, three noncompeting students serve as the loyal opposition team and work out who will be ㄧ辯,二辯,三辯, and prepare as such.  If there is an additional student, check with the coach as to his/her role.  

Unless the coach suggests otherwise, team members can decide among themselves the debate positions.  For those doing debates on both sides of the topic, the first position (ㄧ辯)is easier to do, since the script is 100% pre-written.  With shorter time frame for beginners at 2 minutes for speech and 2 minutes for cross-examination, there are only enough time for 2-3 contentions for 一辯. 二辯 can add one or two points but need to start fighting back, based on the what the opponent's ㄧ辯 said and what the first round of cross-examination turns up, poking holes at the opponent's contention. 三辯 tends to do more of the same and needs to think quick on the feet, and starts wrapping up the debate.  三辯 tends to do the 結辯 but it can be anyone, trying to convince the judge why your team should win.  A team needs to convince the judge, not the opponent, in debates.


Pay attention to the sequence of debaters.  We will post a script for the moderator student (主席), if any, to read to help guide the debaters during debate as to which debater is up next.  Otherwise, the coach will do it.  Sometimes one of my daughters will help out as the moderator.  We will set 30 seconds of times after each speech or cross-examination for the team to regroup.  Feel free to use an alternative video or audio conference software for the teams to communicate to each other during debate.  During the debate, debaters CANNOT ask or receive assistance from outside the team or via online resources.

As the students see improvement in their Chinese proficiency and understanding of the debate process, we will increase the speech and cross-examination time to 2:30 minutes, 3:00 minutes, and so forth.

These are some of general things I learned about debate.  If the coach has other plans, I defer to the coach.

Here is a fun Chinese TV series on college debate that my younger DD and I enjoyed watching recently, suitable for teenagers.

There are different types of debate resolution or topics.  From what I have read, one way to categorize them is to divide them into three major types.

1. Resolution of fact (事實辯題)


2. Resolution of value (價值辯題)


3. Resolution of policy (政策辯題)

"也可以稱為「行動辯題」(resolution of action),是探討某個個人或團體是否應該採取某種特定行動的辯題。從語言結構來分析,政策辯題包含「主詞」與「動詞」兩部份:主詞是採取行動的個人或團體,一般稱為主事者(ageet);動詞則代表主事者預備採取的「行動」(action)。主詞與動詞之間再由一個「助動詞」——「應該」或「應」字連結起來。例如「你應該唸醫學院」、「公共場所應全面禁菸」、「我國應繼續興建核能電廠」,都是政策辯題的例子。"