China, Greece aligned closer

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/12 22:33:40

Warm diplomatic relations ensure sound business cooperation: analysts

Port of Piraeus File Photo: VCG

China and Greece are moving swiftly to strengthen bilateral economic and trade ties, as they pursue further cooperation in areas ranging from infrastructure to telecommunication to banking, following a high-profile visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Athens, despite what analysts call political noise made by some EU and US officials.

Backed by a warm diplomatic relationship, pragmatic cooperation over a massive port offers a model for mutually beneficial cooperation between China and European countries under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), analysts noted.

During Xi's state visit, the two sides signed 16 agreements covering areas such as energy, agriculture, justice, culture, education and finance, according to the China Global Television Network.

Chief among the business agreements is one for China-based COSCO Shipping to move ahead with a master plan to invest 600 million euros ($660 million) into Greece's largest port Piraeus to build the port into a major hub between Asia and Europe, the company said in a post on Tuesday.

Piraeus, which is operated and majority-owned by COSCO, has become a flagship project for cooperation between Greece and China under the BRI since the Chinese shipping giant turned the port into the largest port in the Mediterranean region and one of the fastest-growing container terminals in the world.

Last year, the port generated revenue of 132.9 million euros, increasing 19.2 percent, according to official data. The project also contributed 0.4 percent of Greece's GDP and 326 billion euros in tax revenue. The port has directly and indirectly created more than 10,000 jobs for local workers.

Xi paid a visit to the port on Monday and called it a successful example of China-Greece cooperation that features complementing each other's advantages, combining forces, and achieving mutual benefits, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Building an international hub for commodities with Greece is a very important part of bilateral cooperation," Luo Linquan, a former Chinese ambassador to Greece, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that the two countries will pursue pragmatic cooperation under the BRI.

Model for Europe

China and Greece have been enjoying a warm diplomatic relationship and blossoming trade ties. Just days before Xi's state visit, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis travelled to China to attend the China International Import Expo.

"The two countries have been very friendly to each other, with Greece helping China on matters such as bringing back Chinese nationals from war-torn regions and China helping Greece counter its economic crisis," said Chen Xin, research fellow and director of the economic division of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In 2015, when Greece was facing a debt crisis and sanctions imposed by the European Central Bank and IMF, China purchased Greek treasury bills, helping the government in funding. "China extended a helping hand when Greece needed it the most, so in return Greece has been very helpful in areas such as the implementation of the BRI," Chen told the Global Times.

In a joint statement Monday, China and Greece also said that they will further cooperate on maritime development, though they did not elaborate, and reaffirmed respect for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the US has not ratified but often cites to criticize others.

However, such cooperation hasn't come without a push back from some quarters. Some EU and US officials have voiced concerns over Chinese investment in Greece, calling it a sign of China's expanding political influence. As recently as last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted during a trip to Athens that Chinese investments "leave clients mired in debt," according to Radio Free Europe.

Former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has said that "for them, it's business as usual, but if we sell something it affects our political stance. This is hypocrisy and doublespeak and I have told them so," according to a report by Aljazeera.

Chen said that the Piraeus port project proves that cooperation between China and Greece is mutually beneficial and "should be an example" for cooperation between China and other European countries.
Newspaper headline: China, Greece aligned closer despite noise

Posted in: ECONOMY

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