Charles Stevens | Project Founder
Having observed the development underway along the Silk Road during the Beijing to Tehran Expedition, I wanted to engage with the infrastructure integration, investment opportunities and expanding trade networks as part of China's BRI strategy across the length of Eurasia. I hope this project will provide insight into the increasing economic connectivity, the key strategic reaches and the realised implementation of this initiative during an important phase in its growth. As the world's economic centre of gravity shifts decisively east it is vital to understand these pivotal international developments.
I am excited to, once again, immerse myself in the history of the Silk Road and to see how the local communities who live along its corridors are being affected by its revival.
Currently a sophomore at Georgetown University, I am majoring in Russian with a minor in Physics. Since a young age I have travelled extensively and was drawn to visiting rich and unexplored regions. My interest in this project is twofold. Firstly, it will provide an interesting insight into how BRI is affecting the major languages in the countries we are traveling through. Also, the scope of this infrastructure project will provide a greater appreciation of the methods and practices employed in large scale development projects outside of Western Europe and America.
Like the United States, Central Asia has historically acted as a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and religions. By engaging with as many people as possible on the ground I would love to try and understand this dynamic particularly in Central Asia.
Currently an MA Research Architecture postgraduate at Goldsmiths, University of London, I will be joining the project from Anaklia in Georgia to Yiwu. My focus engages in experimenting with documentary and architectural techniques to map and unfold the spatial and social transformations BRI is generating between Lanzhou New Area, Khorgos Gateway and Dry Port, Xinjiang Logistics Park and the Hong Kong - Shanghai - Beijing Axis. Composed of stacks (Bratton), spheres (Sloterdijk) and folding cities (Jingfang), I am hoping to document the shape of the BRI as it intersects with or withholds on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of its paralogisticians.
Whilst my knowledge of global superpowers is limited to high school geography, I was more than happy to help with the post-production phase of the project, recording introductions and compiling the final videos. In fact, through editing these videos I have gained an interest in the subject, such that I hope to be able to join the team on future journeys to assist in improving the overall quality of production.
I am currently studying Theoretical Physics at the University of St Andrews, with a focus on acoustical engineering. Sound production has been a core part of my life since childhood, and so I have gained a lot of experience recording musicians, interviews, radio plays and more.
I'm an itinerant author and journalist who has been moving through the world since 1999, traveling to over 85 countries. Along the way I wrote a book called Ghost Cities of China, which recounted the two and a half years I spent in China's sparsely populated new cities.
Over the past three years I've been traveling up and down the various corridors of the New Silk Road, collecting and assembling an 'on the ground' perspective of what's going on. The research from these travels will form the basis of my next book, On the New Silk Road, which should be out soon, as well as a popular series on Forbes Asia. In addition to Forbes, I also contribute stories to The Guardian, The Diplomat, as well as a few others and work on documentary projects from time to time.
Completing my second year studying History at the University of St Andrews, I will be joining the project from Piraeus to Baku in Azerbaijan. I hope to gain insight into both the history of the Silk Road and how the various infrastructure projects and investment activities we will encounter are shaping perceptions of China's growing global presence. I look forward to documenting some of these findings through photography, driving the less worn roads of Turkey and contributing to the filming of the expedition.
Of course, no trip is complete without at least trying to learn a little of the local languages and so I look forward to the challenge, hopefully not having to rely too much on the phrasebook.