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British student planning the ultimate road trip

By ANGUS McNEICE IN LONDON | | Updated: 2018-05-11 01:32
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Image from Charles Stevens’ Beijing to Teheran cycling trip in 2016 along the route of ancient Silk Road. Photo For China Daily

“Belt and Road, I would argue, is one of the most important foreign policy developments of the 21st century. But it’s still very new, and a lot of people are unaware of what’s going on with it,” Stevens said. “We want to add color to a picture that can seem very theoretical when it’s read off a news website. We want to document its progress through the eyes of the people we encounter on the road.”

Along the way, Stevens and Micklethwait will drive east across Europe, through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Latvia before arriving in Russia.

The route will then take them south, through Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The team will cross into Turkey, an important central hub on the ancient Silk Road that connected East and West many centuries ago.

Heading east once more, the two will drive through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan before entering China.

Image from Charles Stevens’ Beijing to Teheran cycling trip in 2016 along the route of ancient Silk Road. Photo For China Daily

“The Belt and Road is increasing infrastructure integration and global trade connectivity, and it’s potentially redefining geopolitical relationships,” Stevens said. “We’re interested, on a personal level, in gaining first-hand, empirical understanding of what’s going on. And we want to get a more qualitative understanding by talking to some of the managers and the workers, the people involved with the individual components of the projects.”

Stevens’ interest in the infrastructure development occurring in countries in the Belt and Road region began in 2016 when, aged 18, he and a friend cycled from Beijing to Teheran in Iran, raising money for charity.

“We saw the development that was underway in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan and other countries in Central Asia,” Stevens said. “It put a face to a name, it showed that this was a big deal. This drive will be a very different trip. The first trip was about undergoing a huge physical challenge and doing something for charity. This one has more of an academic bent.”

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