Conference highlights Sino-Greek connections

Nations' shared ancient heritage can point the way toward a positive future

China and Greece's success story of cooperation and the recent exchange of high-level visits by their leaders will take bilateral relations to new heights, according to officials, business leaders, and scholars from the two countries.

The Conference on Greece-China Relations and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Piraeus on Friday came before President Xi Jinping's state visit to Greece from Sunday to Tuesday, after he was invited by Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos.

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has just returned from a trip to China, where he led a 200-strong delegation to the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai and where he also met Xi.

Greece was the first developed European country to sign up for the BRI in August 2018. It also joined China's 17+1 grouping to promote cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries.

Xie Fuzhan, president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the BRI is already in a new era of high-quality development, its principles widely recognized and its cooperation mechanism further improved.

"The fast-changing international situation and the rise of populism, racism, unilateralism and protectionism have posed a big challenge to the high quality of development of the BRI and the community of a shared destiny for mankind," he said. "China and Greece, as two nations with ancient civilizations, have shown responsibility and wisdom in tackling global issues by promoting the exchanges of different civilizations and deepened, mutually beneficial cooperation among nations."

Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, said: "I am confident that if countries and regions involved in the BRI find synergy in development goals, tap their respective advantages and give full play to their cooperation potential, it will propel the BRI into a high-quality development path to deliver benefits for their people."

Greek Minister of Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis said there was a political struggle when China Ocean Shipping Company invested in the Piraeus port 10 years ago.

"After 10 years, everybody can say that this is an important investment for the country. It helps Piraeus to accelerate in trade and productivity and to make it one of the biggest ports in the European Union and this planet," he said. "It helps both China and Greece in their economic relationship and the European Union as a whole, so it was a very big example of success."

Piraeus has soared from 93rd in 2010 to 32nd in world port capacity ranking, with its handling of containers reaching 4.9 million 20-foot equivalent units, a standard size container, in 2018.

Varvitsiotis, a former minister of shipping, maritime affairs and the Aegean, called it "definitely a success story" for Sino-Greek cooperation.

China's Ambassador to Greece Zhang Qiyue applauded the high-level visits by the leaders.

"After these two important visits, our relationship, the Greek-Chinese relationship and friendship, are entering a new era... We are opening a new chapter," she told the conference.

"We will have much more interaction. The comprehensive and strategic partnership will really intensify. The depth and width of this relationship will develop very much."

The meeting was organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation and China Daily.

Han Baoyi contributed to this story.