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The First BRI Simulation Competition

The First "Belt and Road Initiative Simulation Competition" was held on June 27, 2018 in Shanghai, China. Students from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics Law School and Deakin Law School participated in the competition. Jincheng Tongda and Neal Law Firm sponsored the event. 


Since 2013, when Xi Jinping, the President of People’s Republic of China, initiated Belt and Road Initiative, and along with the growth of the investment projects from Chinese corporations, we can see remarkable increases in BRI-related research, consultations, and trainings. However, we find very few relevant educational programs aimed at promoting a better understanding of the processes associated with BRI, cooperation, and negotiation.

The BRI Simulation program is the first educational program in the world that is specifically designed to train students and young professionals. In the simulation, participants are delegated different roles and use their knowledge and skills to create better strategies and solutions to deal with the relevant issues in the case. The competition simulates cases that are based on real BRI issues and must be dealt with by involving both the public and private sectors, including governments, local society representatives, NGOs, international NGOs, transnational corporations, etc.


The purpose of this competition is to educate participants to gain experience and knowledge in creating strategies for and promoting the implementation of the BRI-related projects. It requires participants to have excellent knowledge at the intersection of law and international affairs, understanding of local cultures and globalization, skills in researching, public speaking, debating, and writing, as well as abilities in creative and critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership.

The First Competition & Its Results

The BRI Simulation Competition was designed and developed by the FLIA BRI Simulation Team, and sponsored by Jincheng Tongda & Neal Law Firm (JT&N); 18 participants from SUFE School of Law and Deakin Law School delegated 4 teams in the competition.

The Competition is based on the real BRI issues of the South Gem Port. Students were delegated among four interested parties, Sri Lanka Government, China Mandarina Port Holdings Company (GW Holdings), Human Rights International (HRI) and South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and were required to use their knowledge and skills to create better strategies and solutions for their own interested party. The main issues of the case include investment and the financial structure of the project, environmental compliance, employment and welfare, and how to balance regional powers and incorporate regional economies into the project. The competition involves four sessions: Opening Statement, Bilateral Negotiation, Ad-Hoc Negotiation and Quadrilateral Negotiation.


Advisors for the four teams are: Mark Poustie, Professor at SUFE Law School, Scholar of Chinese Thousand Talents; Wen Zou, In-house Counsel at Union Pay; Zhian Lu, Professor at Fudan University Law School, and; Asen Velinov, Attorney at Law (California) at Co-effort Law Firm LLP, Overseas Investment Advisor at CONCANACO, Consultant at Oriental Financial Pudong Channel.


The competition produced the Gold Award and Silver Award for teams, the Public Speaking Award, the Public Speaking Award Runner-Up, the Diplomatic Style Champion and the Diplomatic Style Champion Runner-Up. The NGO team represented by the Shanghai University of Finance & Economics Law School won the team Gold Award, and the Chinese company team represented by the Deakin University Law School in Australia won the team Silver Award. Zhou Jiayi, from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, received the public speech champion; Max Hall from Dickon Law School won the Public Speaking Award Runner-Up. The Diplomatic Style Champion was won by Joel Breckler of Deakin University School of Law, and the Runner-Up was received by Yu Lan of Shanghai University of Finance & Economics Law School.


Dr. Shaoming Zhu, President of the Foundation of Law and International Affairs, said that the educational significance and policy significance of this event is essential. Through the competition, the students learned the core knowledge framework and applicable laws involved in the project, were able to familiarize themselves with some basic practical issues in port construction, and understood the capabilities and qualities required for participation in international norms of negotiation, negotiation and formulation. She said that the Foundation of Law and International Affairs will further promote the global participation and industry participation of the project and competition, and promote the project and competition to more countries along the “Belt and Road” and countries that have not participated in the Belt and Road Initiative. We also cultivate more overseas young people's understanding and participation in the “Belt and Road” strategy. She believes that through the training and promotion of the simulation contest, the project will spread Chinese thoughts and standards, improve the application of Chinese standards and Chinese (soft) law in the “Belt and Road”, correct the misconceptions of the Belt and Road Initiative in Western society. Most importantly, the negotiation is between four very different entities including the company, government, non-government organizations, and international organizations. It is a major innovation in the international rules of procedure and the global governance model.


Through the simulation, the project will also select a group of young talents to set up a “One Belt, One Road” youth talent pool, and directly deliver young talents for enterprises and international organizations. The contestants who participated in this competition have already obtained internship opportunities to Jincheng Tongda Law Firm, Concanaco and Mexican companies.

Voice from the Competition

Professor Ling Hu, the Assistant Dean of SUFE School of Law gave a speech at the opening session, saying that BRI personnel training should be involved and valued in law school education, and it is a great opportunity for the students in the SUFE School of Law and Deakin Law School to learn and practice knowledges and skills from BRI Simulation Competition.

Xiaoke Zhang, the Senior Partner from JT&N also mentioned in the opening session that JT&N have always paid sustained attention in cultivating young professionals, and believes BRI Simulation program will provide more professionals for law firms and corporations.


Wang Yi, Deputy Director of American & Oceanian Department of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, and Samuel Maldonado, President at Concanaco, said in a closing speech that this is a very successful competition and an important event of innovation, hoping students continue to pay attention to the construction of the Belt and Road and prepare for participation in the future.

The advisor of the winning team, Professor Mark Poustie, commented after the competition that “ Simulation is a very effective educational tool in promoting deep understanding in students. The BRI Simulation Competition is a fantastic innovation which provides participants with opportunities to gain this deep understanding of the complex issues which can arise in BRI projects. Spreading understanding of the BRI is vital given the significance of this key Chinese policy initiative. FLIA deserves huge credit for developing the Competition and SUFE Law School deserves tribute for hosting the very first BRI Simulation Competition and I hope that many more universities will want to participate in the next iteration of the Competition.”


The other team advisor, Asen Velinov, who is a practitioner and consultant at Oriental Financial Pudong Channel, said that “Coaching one of the international teams provided me with an opportunity to share my experience with up and coming practitioners that I would be excited to work with in the not so distant future. It was a great exercise in thought leadership for all of us, at a time in history that is for a lack of better word, unique. China, one of the original engines of global connectivity, has more than reclaimed its role - the original Silk Road is now the Belt and Road and that makes for an exciting time to be a lawyer and a diplomat. I was happy to spend time with experts who understand that our focus going forward should be closing deals that benefit the global community - and not just any of its members. Thought leadership on BRI deal and decision making is extremely necessary on the initiative’s fifths anniversary and I enjoyed being a part of shaping it.”


Zhou Jiayi, the winner of the Public Speaking Award, said in her acceptance speech, "Thanks to the committee for giving us the opportunity to represent the indigenous people who have suffered from historic injustices centuries ago as a result of their colonization and dispossession of their lands, resources and impeded form of living and lifestyles. In representation for the HRI, we are honored to witness that apart from big power games and conflicts of interests, there could another possibility for the global community.”

Australian student, Max Hall, who won the Public Speaking Award Runner-Up, said in his speech, “I found the negotiations very intense. The four teams from China and Australia presented a true international negotiation.... I believe that this competition will attract people from all over the world to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative through its discussion and analysis of key issues."

More Information

In “Belt and Road Initiative”, international talent cultivation is a hot topic and a systematic task. With the speedy progress of globalization, China has now become more active in international affairs, not only promoting the construction of internationally shared facilities, order, and business, but China also initiates a new era of international cooperation and development mission. However, “Belt and Road Initiative” simultaneously requires more sophisticated training with more diverse and professional talents.

In terms of education model, the “Belt and Road Initiative” Simulation Competition is an innovative educational model.

Simulation is a relatively mature educational mechanism in Western countries. This program will introduce simulation to China by using imitation of projects under the “Belt & Road Initiative” by assigning different roles to the participants to explore better strategies and solutions. The participants will have to use the corresponding knowledge and skills to conduct cross-cultural exchanges and negotiations.


In terms of knowledge, the key areas of the “Belt and Road Initiative” including, transportation, construction, energy, information, communication, and finance. The cooperation and the promotion of these projects depend on a multitude of skills and knowledge, including, language, law, negotiation, national culture, and international soft law. Therefore, the talent training of the “Belt and Road Initiative” must recognize the importance of interdisciplinary subjects and encourage students to use international perspectives to understand and observe current legal issues and international affairs, and to cultivate students’ international vision and mastery of knowledge and skills.

In terms of professional competence, the international talent training goal under the “Belt and Road Initiative” is not only to cultivate professional and technical personnel with transnational vision and ability, but also to cultivate business and political elites with legal basis and legal thinking. As the world's interconnections gradually increase, professional technology is increasingly involved in diplomacy, law, policy formulation, administration, and the internationalization of Chinese standards. This requires students not only master professional skills, but also be adequately prepared in the matter of language expression, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary knowledge.

In terms of educational purposes, the “Belt and Road Initiative” simulation not only guides students from all countries to pay attention to the projects and the implementations of the “Belt and Road Initiative” but also allows them to think critically for the specific practical issues involved in it, specifically the students in the countries where the “Belt and Road” is concerned. It’s crucial to cultivate and expand the local talents for internationally shared facilities, order and business, thus, facilitate local economy, local development, and local investment.


We extend our deepest gratitude towards:

Our judges: Xiaoke Zhang, a senior partner of Beijing Jincheng Tongda (Shanghai) Law Firm; Dr. Li Chen, Associate Professorial Fellow at Fudan University Law School, and; Dr. Jiao Zhang, Secretary-General of the Institute for Belt & Road Initiative and Legal Studies at East China University of Political Science and Law.


Our Advisors for four teams: Mark Poustie, Professor at SUFE Law School, Scholar of Chinese Thousand Talents; Wen Zou, In-house Counsel at Union Pay; Zhian Lu, Professor at Fudan University Law School, and; Asen Velinov, Attorney at Law (California) at Co-effort Law Firm LLP, Overseas Investment Advisor at CONCANACO, Consultant at Oriental Financial Pudong Channel.

Our honored guests, including but not limited to Wang Yi, Deputy Director of American & Oceanian Department of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, Samuel Maldonado, President at ConcanacoYingying Shen, Senior Manager of SMG, Michael Wu, Partner at Jingcheng Tongda & Neal Law Firm, and Huang Tianyi, Lawyer of Deheng Law Firm.

Last but not least, our participants:

Shanghai University of Finance & Economics Law School: Sri Lanka Government

• Advisor: Wen Zou (邹纹), In-house Counsel at Union Pay

• Team Members: Yu Lan (Alice), Yang Yuxuan (David), Lu Yang (Stephen), and Lu Yi (Courtney)


Deakin Law School: GW Holdings

• Advisor: Asen Velinov, Attorney at Law (California) at Co-effort Law Firm LLP; Overseas Investment Advisor at CONCANACO; Consultant at Oriental Financial Pudong Channel

• Team Members: Hugo Le Clerc, Luke Samuel Smith, Max Hall, Sarah Ward, Elyem Onal


Shanghai University of Finance & Economics Law School: Human Rights International (HRI)

• Advisor: Mark Poustie, Professor at Shanghai University of Finance & Economics Law School

• Team Members: Zhou Jiayi (Lorraine), Sun Mingyue (Daria), Gong Zheng, Huang Tianxin (Maggie)



Deakin Law School: South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC)

• Advisor: Zhian Lu (陆志安), Professor at Fudan University Law School

• Team Members: Kayla Laird, Michael Dean Hoareau, Alan Wang, Nathan Koulouris

A Sample Case

The BRI Simulation works through the issues of the South Gem Port. South Gem is the major town in the southern tip of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Government would like to build up its port in order to boost the development of the region of South Gem and increase economic trade within the region. The Port of South Gem is of great value to international maritime routes as it is perfectly located in the middle of the route via which the oil from the Middle East is transported to East Asia. It has desirable geographical conditions for building a deep-water port and is the nearest port to the main maritime route across the Indian Ocean. Once built, the Port of South Gem can accommodate ships at the level of five hundred thousand tons and will serve as a major port in the Indian Ocean. The main issues of the case include invesment and the financial structure of the project, environmental compliance, employment and welfare,  and how to balance regional powers and incorporate regional economies into the project.

The Structure to the Simulation
Four Teams

The simulation contains four teams representing four parties in the case. Each party has their own motives and objectives and each of them has three - five delegates.

Teams will be given key documents about the case which will contain information on the situation, the stakeholders involved, sets of confidential instructions, relevant maps, and other reference documents. Confidential instructions are considered protected documents for their team delegation regarding the round of negotiations and should be handled as such.

Each team should have an advisor to assist them as they work through the process. The team must appoint a team Communicator, who is the sole point of contact with the Secretary of the simulation, and responsible for scheduling and processing ad hoc negotiation requests, sending/receiving press releases, team-to-team communication, and diplomatic communiqués.

One Secretary

There is a Secretary in each simulation, he or she is responsible for collecting proposals, exchanging information among teams, facilitating negotiations, releasing new findings, and supervising the process to be conducted within the established schedule.​

Three Phases

The Simulation includes three crucial phases: the writing of the opening statement, formal negotiation, and informal negotiation. During the simulation, all teams will meet for three hours over the course of two ceremonies and three rounds: opening ceremony, first round, second round, final round and the closing ceremony. Each team may use the rest of time during the competition to prepare oral argument and proposal. 


The writing of the opening statement and the final resolution requires participants’ full understanding of the case scenario and each parties’ interests and propositions. The goal of the negotiation is to reach the best balance among all parties.


This type of competition is performed under the confines of a strict schedule. The schedule helps to replicate the formality within negotiations take place, and allows the parties involved time to negotiate issues, review, evaluate, and adjust negotiation strategies, and schedule and respond to negotiation requests. The strict adherence and enforcement of the schedule may induce some level of frustration from the participants, but this is not an unrealistic expectation.


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