What are the economic, humanitarian, and environmental implications of China’s Belt & Road Initiative: A Simulated UN Debate

This simulation was developed with support from the KU Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), a Department of Education Title VI funded National Resource Center. It was created by Amy Quirin, Doctoral Candidate in Curriculum & Instruction and CEAS graduate education assistant.

Comprehensive Lesson Plan


China’s Belt & Road Initiative: A Simulated UN Debate

Activity Type



High School Social Science

Time Requirement

Class 1: 50 minutes– Introduction of topic and distribution of materials

Class 2: 50 minutes, minimum– Research & Preparation

Class 3: 50 minutes– Debate

Sources Used

Delegate Guide lists all the sources used.

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to…

  1. Use supplied resources and internet research to identify the benefits and drawbacks of the Belt & Road Initiative from the perspective of one impacted country.
  2. Prepare a research-based, written statement that identifies the benefits and drawbacks of the Belt & Road Initiative from the perspective of one impacted country.
  3. Present and defend a country’s perspective on the BRI during in-class discussion & debate.
  4. Write a brief reaction paper describing the student’s personal perspective on the BRI and explaining how the debate informed their position.

Essential Questions

  • What assurances should China provide UN member states regarding the economic, humanitarian, and environmental sustainability of the Belt & Road Initiative?

Required Materials

Please refer back to the Delegate Guide.

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Educational Standards & Benchmarks

5.3 The student will investigate and connect dynamic relationships to contemporary issues.

5.4 The student will use their understanding of dynamic relationships to make a claim or advance a thesis using evidence and argument.

WHST.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

WHST.11-12.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.





Decide which countries you will assign to which students. Try to have at least two countries from each Bloc position so that students will have a sub-group to prepare with before the debate. Consider student ability in assigning countries. For example, a stronger student or more confident speaker might be chosen to represent China, which will likely have a lot of questions to answer from other groups.

Print copies of the Delegate Guide and the Position Paper instructions and scoring guide (attached in the required materials section).

Class Period 1

Part 1: Teacher’s Lecture (10 – 15 minutes)

Present associated PowerPoint, or provide your own introduction to the topic.

Part 2: Students begin country specific research (45-50 minutes)

Distribute Delegate Guide and assign countries for students to represent.

Options for Scaffolding:

  • Distribute the delegate guide in both hard copy and electronically. This will make it easier for students to follow links but reading on a paper copy may be easier for some students.
  • Help students understand the organization of the Delegate Guide and point them to a spot where they should start, for instance, by watching the video resources in the guide.
  • Assign pairs to each country to research, write position papers, and participate in the debate as a team.
  • Provide students with the attached outline for the position paper.

Student Research and Writing: Time based on teacher judgement

Depending on your students’ ability level, you can provide class-time for research and writing. You should give students an appropriate amount of time to write their position papers, and preferably for you to read through the position papers before the day of the debate.

Students’ Debates Part 1 (35 – 40 minutes)

Debate Topic:

What assurances should China provide UN member states regarding the economic, humanitarian, and environmental sustainability of the Belt & Road Initiative?

Debate Procedure:

  1. Subgroup brainstorming (8-10 minutes)

Ask students to gather with other students from their Bloc. Share their thoughts and brainstorm a debate strategy. Each student should be prepared to share a one-sentence summary of their country’s position for role call at the beginning whole-class debate.

  1. Whole class discussion/debate (20-30 minutes)
  • One person should serve as debate moderator. This could be a student with Model UN experience, or the teacher.
  • Roll Call: The moderator should call roll, allowing each delegate to state their country name and a one-sentence summary of their position. The thesis statement from their position paper would be a reasonable summary of their position.
  • Debate: Allow students to debate the merits of the BRI. Try to ensure that somewhat equal time is spent on the three major parts of the debate question: economic, humanitarian, and environmental issues.

Part 2: Debate Summary (6 – 8 minutes)

Debrief with students on debate. Possible questions to discuss with them:

What aspects of this assignment did you find difficult?

What did you learn from researching and debating this topic?

What is your own perspective on the Belt & Road Initiative?

As homework, ask students to write a brief reaction paper in which they expand on these questions.

About the Sponsor

Founded in 1959, the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas is the major academic hub and premiere outreach network in the Great Plains region, collaborating effectively with partners to disseminate knowledge about East Asian languages and cultures to build global competencies in the 21st century. The Center is funded by a Department of Education Title VI grant to serve as a National Resource Center with the mission of increasing knowledge of East Asian histories, languages, cultures, and current events in the region and beyond. Part of our mission is to collaborate with area educators to enhance international content by:

  • Offering workshops to bring East Asian content into K-12 classrooms
  • Providing lesson plans and modules to support curriculum internationalization
  • Bolstering K-12 and community college DEI initiatives
  • Creating unique classroom experiences for students to experience East Asia

For more information, please reach out to us at ceas@ku.edu.