China and Greece to upgrade trade and cultural links

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/10 20:59:33 Last Updated: 2019/11/11 1:53:47

Good bilateral cooperation sets example for Europe

Photo taken on Thursday shows the Piraeus port in Greece. Photo: Xinhua

China-Greece ties are set to reach a new high as Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off a visit to the Mediterranean country on Sunday, said observers. And they noted that good cooperation with Greece not only sets an example for Europe, but also is doorknob to strengthen China's cooperation with other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Upon the invitation of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Xi began a three-day state visit to Greece on Sunday.

During his visit to Greece, the first by a Chinese president after an interval of 11 years, Xi will hold talks respectively with Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.

This state visit is set to bring bilateral relations to a new high and upgrade the two countries' cooperation, Cui Hongjian, director of EU Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

During Xi's visit, the two sides will issue a joint statement on strengthening their comprehensive strategic partnership, draw a blueprint for the development of bilateral ties, and sign intergovernmental cooperation documents on investment and education as well as commercial agreements in fields such as ports, finance and energy, Xinhua reported. 

The top Chinese leader will also attend the opening of a new Bank of China branch in Athens, CGTN reported on Sunday.

Among all EU countries, Greece is the one that has always kept positive ties with China; and its good cooperation sets an example for the Europe, said Cui. 

"Greece can contribute to the mutual understanding of China and the EU," Pavlopoulos said on Saturday in an interview with People's Daily.

Chinese experts noted that upgraded China-Greece ties are an opportunity for China to enhance cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries. "Because of its geographic location and development of Piraeus Port, sea and rail transportation have been linked to Greece, which makes it a maritime logistics centre for connecting China and Central and Eastern Europe, or even Middle Eastern countries," said Cui. 

Space for deeper collaboration 

Such cooperation invited attention from the EU and the US, with some "EU and US diplomats looking on with caution as China continues to show an interest in Greece," Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Saturday. 

Some politicians have no right to speak on behalf of Greece on its cooperation with China, as the China-Greece ties have been lasting for many years, and the Greeks chose to sustain the tie because there are actual benefits, Cui remarked. 

In August 2018, Greece became the first developed European country to sign with China a memorandum of understanding to jointly advance the construction of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In April this year, Greece joined the cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) as a full member.

In a key BRI investment, China's COSCO Shipping Ports Limited acquired a 51percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority in 2016. In the following two years, Piraeus' container throughput increased from 880,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 4.9 million in 2018. This year, Piraeus Port surpassed Valencia Port in Spain to become the largest port in the Mediterranean, ranking second among all Mediterranean ports, CGTN reported. 

China's support for crisis-stricken Greece has been noted as positive over the past few years. In the worst hour of the latter's debt crisis, China has publicly stated its support for Greece's stay in the eurozone, said George N. Tzogopoulos, director of EU-China Programmes, and also a senior research fellow at the Center International de Formation Europeenne. 

Tzogopoulos pointed out that China invested billions in Greek government bonds at that time, and the Greeks did not forget that.

Cui said that although the cooperation between China and Greece is already comprehensive, there is still space for further and deeper collaboration. 

"The sectors for which we would like to see further improvement in our cooperation with China include the agricultural sector, investment in transport and infrastructure, the maritime sector, energy, telecommunications, innovation, research and technology, and of course tourism," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said before heading to the second China International Import Expo.

Cultural proximity

Xi published a signed article, "Let Wisdom of Ancient Civilizations Shine Through the Future" in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini (The Daily) ahead of his state visit. 

In this article, Xi wrote that "more than 2,000 years ago, ancient Chinese and Greek civilizations shone brightly in Asia and Europe. Greek's golden era produced many of its great philosophers and literary giants. That coincided with a period in China when "a hundred schools of thought contended with each other" and flourished together."

Tzogopoulos said that culture and politics intersect. The cultural proximity between Greece and China facilitate dialogue in the modern era. This dialogue goes beyond the two countries. Greece can be a bridge for a better understanding of China in the West.

The exchanges between headstreams of Western and Eastern civilizations can offer wisdom and solution for many dilemmas that is facing the world, said Chinese experts, noting that many of those problems were generated by a conflict of civilizations. 

According to Xinhua, Xi will tour historical sites including the Acropolis of Athens during his visit to Greece.

The visit will also demonstrate China's respect and admiration for ancient Greek culture, and exemplify how to conduct equal and insightful dialogue between civilizations, said Cui. 

Newspaper headline: China, Greece to upgrade ties

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