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China and Greece present an ideal example of cooperation

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-15 07:38

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Tuesday. [Photo/Xinhua]

In my primary school days, I had a contest with fellow classmates over how many digits we can remember of the mathematical constant pi ( ), the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is a creation of Greek mathematician Archimedes around 250 BC.

So it was no surprise that I quickly bought a T-shirt with a huge ( ) sign, along with 100 decimal digits, when I saw it in a shop in the picturesque Plaka neighborhood in Athens during my first trip to Greece.

Archimedes is one of the many mathematicians, physicists and philosophers of the ancient Greek civilization who has fascinated not only Chinese, but the whole world.

"Ancient civilization" is something that Greeks and Chinese are proud of-which was evident in the signed article by President Xi Jinping in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini (The Daily) on Sunday, which I read, or in the speeches of Panos Laskaridis, president of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, or Petros Doukas, mayor of Sparta, which I listened to at a conference in Piraeus recently.

As Laskaridis said, other countries may have cultures, but not civilizations like Greece and China. The wisdom of ancient civilizations may well explain the good relationship between the two countries. The success story of the Piraeus Port, the growing Chinese investment in Greece, the promising future of Greek agricultural products in China, and the cultural exchanges that I heard so much about during the trip, signal another new beginning for a bright future of cooperation between the two countries.

Yes. Harvard scholar Graham Allison's term "Thucydides Trap" also comes from Greek stories. But both Greeks and Chinese know that tragic lessons of history are meant to be heeded, not repeated. That is why they are very pragmatic in pursuing win-win cooperation for their peoples and not distracted by the zero-sum mindset that dominates many Western politicians.

The success story of turning Piraeus into the biggest port in the Mediterranean and soon one of the largest in the world after further upgrading is not only good for China and Greece, but also Europe, the Middle East and the world beyond which need efficient shipping to boost their trade and economy.

Instead of criticizing Chinese investment, all countries should show the same confidence China has displayed by investing more in Greece, something the Southern European country badly needs. China's "vote of confidence" was mentioned repeatedly by Greek leaders and a recent editorial in Kathimerini.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis's visit to China last week, the state visit to Greece by Xi, and the joint statement issued and cooperation agreements signed during Xi's trip will surely take the bilateral relationship to a higher level.

Greeks are friendly to China. Even according to a survey by Washington-based Pew, Greeks have a much more favorable view of China than they have of the United States.

I was amazed walking in an Athens street on Tuesday when someone called me from behind, "Weihua". My name in Greek was printed on the back of my T-shirt. A moment later, a shop-owner, after learning that I am from China, came up and gave me a hug and said "Chinese are our brothers..."

Many of my friends have talked about their exciting trips to Greece over the past years. It is a pity that I wasn't able to visit other places in Greece during this business trip. But Greece is a place that I will definitely keep coming back to. I'm glad to learn that a direct flight from my home city Shanghai to Athens will take off next July.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.


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