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Kissinger versus Ferguson: three things we hope to see at the next Munk Debates

It’s interesting—in the “kind of weird” sense of the term—that an academic debate hosted by the University of Toronto garners the attention that it does. Nonetheless, the Munk Debates have somehow managed to make a splash on the international scene (which is exactly the sort of splash Toronto cares about). Whether the subject is the environment or atheism, the foreign press corps takes note, and the next debate should be no different, as Henry Kissinger and Fareed Zakaria square off against Niall Ferguson and David Daokui Li over whether the 21st century will belong to China. Given the stodgy, prim and proper environs, those in attendance will probably be painfully polite—but we’re still holding out hope for some fireworks. A small wish list after the jump.

1. Someone brings up Rising Sun It may be a distant memory now, but back in the early 1990s, plenty of smart people thought that Japan would supplant the U.S. as the world’s biggest superpower. One real-estate bubble—and resultant economic collapse—later, and Japan’s economy has spent nearly 20 years underperforming. It makes the entire genre of Japan’s-coming-to-eat-our-lunch fiction look rather silly.

2. Someone brings up Wilfrid Laurier If the supposed best and brightest couldn’t predict the future two decades ago, they probably shouldn’t attempt a century’s worth of guessing. Seriously: predicting how the 21st century is going to pan out in 2011 is about as hubristic as saying, in 1904, that Canada would “fill the 20th century.”

3. Someone goads Henry Kissinger It’s a shame the debate is likely to be so gosh-darn polite, because we’d be awfully tempted to give Kissinger a poke and a prod. Say, if he claims China can’t sustain its power without respecting human rights, or if he argues that China needs to respect the rule of law. Or better yet, if he says he’s worried about China’s treatment of other, smaller Asian countries around it.

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