Western smearing Piraeus Port management is ill-intended, to crumble in face of mounting trade: envoy
Published: Sep 17, 2023 04:51 PM
Aerial photo taken on Feb. 15, 2019 shows the COSCO Shipping Pisces, one of the world's largest container ships, docking at Piraeus Port in Greece. (Xinhua/Wu Lu)

Aerial photo taken on Feb. 15, 2019 shows the COSCO Shipping Pisces, one of the world's largest container ships, docking at Piraeus Port in Greece. (Xinhua/Wu Lu)

China's promotion of the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is not driven by geopolitical maneuvers, nor is China pursuing self-interest for hegemonic purposes, nor does it seek to create disruptive alliances, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Xiao Junzheng told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

Xiao's remarks were made in response to certain countries or forces spreading that "China's investment in global ports is a threat", alleging that China's investment in Greece's Piraeus Port has a 'non-commercial purpose' or possible military use. There is also the claim that China and Greece's maritime cooperation will harm regional peace.

"These claims are entirely baseless and unfounded. Such statements crumble in the face of the bustling container cranes and ceaseless cruise ship activity at the port," Xiao said.

The facts demonstrate that China's cooperation with its partners, including Greece, in port development is aimed at promoting economic and trade cooperation between nations, and such cooperation contributes to local economic development, infrastructure improvement and job creation, Xiao said.

Piraeus Port is the closest European port to the Suez Canal, making it a crucial gateway for Asian goods, including those from China, to enter Europe, especially the Central and Eastern European regions.

Since China COSCO Shipping Group took over the operations of Piraeus Port, this millennium-old port has experienced a remarkable revival and achieved significant growth, propelling the rapid advancement of local logistics and industrial chains.

Currently, the Piraeus subsidiary of COSCO Shipping has invested over one billion euros in port construction and upgrades. The Piraeus Port has also seen a significant rise in its container throughput ranking, climbing from 93rd place in 2010 to 29th place in 2021, establishing itself as a leading Mediterranean port.

This development has directly created over 3,000 local jobs and indirectly generated more than 10,000 additional positions. In total, these efforts have contributed over 1.4 billion euros to the local community.

In 2022, Piraeus Port also received awards including the "Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Industry" award from the Greek Ministry of Tourism and the "Diamonds of the Greek Economy" award from Hellenic Shipping News, which the ambassador said was proof of the widespread recognition and approval of the port project by various sectors of Greek society.

"The tremendous success of the Piraeus project serves as an example of the BRI and stands as a significant achievement in the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Greece," he said.

Western smearing directed at Piraeus Port is part of the attempt to throw dirt at the China-proposed BRI. Xiao said that China's promotion of the construction of the BRI is not driven by geopolitical maneuvers, nor does it pursue self-interest for hegemonic purposes.

Instead, the joint initiative aims to create more opportunities for mutual development. The cooperation is conducted transparently and openly, without posing any security threat to any country, without targeting third parties, and without interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, the ambassador said.

Looking ahead, China will accelerate the construction of port infrastructure and regional international logistics corridors, ensuring the stability and smooth operation of regional industrial and supply chains, Xiao said.

When it comes to the future of China-Greece relations, he said that in addition to the traditional sectors such as port and transportation, both sides can explore the potential for cooperation in emerging areas such as digital transformation and green development. 

"Together, we can promote the construction of the 'Digital Silk Road' and the 'Green Silk Road,' facilitating a harmonious fusion of the Aegean blue with the Chinese red, together we envision a vibrant, dazzling, and promising future for our joint initiative," Xiao said.