Wisdom of experience
[MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY]
Relations between China and Greece, two ancient civilizations, are a model of bilateral win-win cooperation
Greek philosopher Socrates once said: "There is no possession more valuable than a good and faithful friend." China and Greece, though thousands of miles apart, are ancient civilizations of the East and the West. The friendly exchanges between both sides can be dated back to over 2,000 years ago, when both sides were connected through the ancient Silk Road.
The ancient Greeks even gave China a laudatory title--Land of Silk. The two countries officially established diplomatic relations on June 5, 1972, a move with undoubtedly historic significance. The fact that China and Greece share a similar historical heritage as ancient civilizations, similar sufferings in history and similar values has made the two countries natural friends and partners.
China and Greece are good friends with mutual respect and trust. Since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations half a century ago, the ties between China and Greece have remained rock-solid despite changes in the global landscape. In 2006, the two countries established a comprehensive strategic partnership.
In November 2019, President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Greece, taking bilateral relations to a new era. In today's globalized world, the Belt and Road Initiative, which can trace its origins to the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, is connecting the two countries more closely, and bilateral relations are taking on new dimensions and being expanded.
In August 2018, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly build the Belt and Road, and Greece became a full member of the Cooperation between China and the Central and Eastern European Countries in April 2019.
Greek leaders have attended two consecutive sessions of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation as well as the China-CEEC leaders' meeting. Thanks to concerted efforts by both nations, China-Greece relations have become a model for peaceful coexistence, development and win-win cooperation between countries of different sizes, systems and cultures.
China and Greece are good partners for development and win-win cooperation. Guided by the Belt and Road Initiative, this mutually beneficial cooperation has yielded fruitful results. The China-Greece Joint Economic and Trade Committee has held 13 meetings. The Greek side has participated in the China International Import Expo for four consecutive years and served as one of the guest-of-honor countries. Greek businesses have taken an active part in the China-CEEC Expo. Bilateral trade volume has jumped from less than $100 million in the early 1990s to $12.15 billion in 2021. Greece has become China's fourth-largest trading partner among the Central and Eastern European countries, and China is also the third-largest trading partner of Greece and its largest trading partner outside the European Union.
According to Bank of Greece data, direct investment from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong SAR in Greece reached nearly 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) between 2010 and 2021, making China the sixth-largest source of foreign investment in Greece and the largest outside Europe.
The two sides have carried out win-win cooperation in wide-ranging sectors, including transport, energy, communication and finance. Projects such as the Port of Piraeus, a key hub in the Mediterranean invested and run by China's COSCO Shipping, and the power supply interconnection between Crete and the Peloponnese, a project that was partly funded by the State Grid Corp of China, have brought about good economic and social benefits. The projects have not only set an example for deepening bilateral cooperation in areas such as building regional logistic hubs and promoting a green energy transformation, but also helped promote regional connectivity and cooperative development.
China and Greece are bosom friends for dialogue and mutual learning among civilizations. Inheritors of ancient civilizations, China and Greece have made key contributions to the development and progress of human civilization. They are now advocates and leaders of contemporary dialogue and exchange between different civilizations. The people of the two countries have a natural sense of closeness, and have always been able to think about issues and understand and support each other from the perspective of their thousand-year history and mutual learning between civilizations.
China and Greece have always shared weal and woe and stood in solidarity, especially in times when the People's Republic of China faced an economic embargo from the West, when Chinese citizens were trapped in war-torn areas, when Greece faced a severe debt crisis, and when the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the globe.
The two sides have written new chapters for bilateral friendship, and created a vivid practice for jointly building a community with a shared future for mankind. In recent years, the two sides have forged new highlights in bilateral cooperation in the fields of the Olympics, culture, tourism and education. The two sides jointly uphold and practice the Olympic spirit. With support from Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, Beijing became the first city in the world to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. In 2020, the first Online Chinese Language Classroom was launched at the University of the Aegean. The first Confucius Institute in Greece has been running at the Athens University of Economics and Business for over a decade, and a third Confucius Institute was officially unveiled at the University of Thessaly in Greece.
At present, six Chinese universities have programs of Greek language for undergraduate students, and universities of the two countries are preparing for the establishment of a research center on the Chinese and Greek civilizations. The China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism kicked off in Athens in September last year. In March, the two sides signed a joint action program for tourism cooperation, which outlined a road map for advancing the cooperation between the two countries.
The development of China-Greece relations has shown the world the beauty of harmony and cooperation between ancient civilizations, and bilateral win-win cooperation has showcased the vitality of working together toward a new era. China is now accelerating efforts to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. Greece is moving forward with Greece 2.0, a plan centering around recovery and transformation. Looking ahead, the future of China-Greece relations is one full of hope.
Standing at a new starting point, China and Greece will take the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations as an opportunity to further align their development strategies, bolster cooperation in various sectors and continue to deepen the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership. The two countries will also demonstrate a sense of responsibility as ancient civilizations, use their ancient wisdom to look into the future and make greater contributions to global peace and development.
The author is the Chinese ambassador to Greece. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.
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