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Xi Jinping Visits Greece Eyeing Deeper Economic Ties

BEIJING – The trip comes days after Mitsotakis, as the representative of the 2019 China International Import Expo’s official guest group, visited the Asian country.
Xi and Mitsotakis will visit Piraeus port, the oldest and biggest in Greece operated by the state-owned Cosco port operator. It is the largest Chinese investment in Greece and a new development, including a new cargo terminal, which has recently been approved by Cosco.
More than €800 million ($881 million) has already been plowed into the port by Beijing with plans to invest another €600 million.
Piraeus is the first deep sea port in the EU to be entered by Asian container ships when they approach the Eastern Mediterranean.
In China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a mega plan designed to open up new trade routes with the West, it plays an important role.
Greece officially signed in early 2019 on the plan.
Xi wrote in his article for Kathimerini that Piraeus is “emerging as the largest port in the Mediterranean.” “Piraeus’ COSCO investment is a success story,” said Konstantinos Filis, research director at Pantheon University’s Institute of International Relations in Athens.
Nevertheless, he emphasized the importance of China adhering to EU regulations and guidelines on issues relating to labour rights and protection of the environment.
Although trade relations between the two sides seem to be in high gear, Greece’s exports to China are less than €1bn ($1.1bn) a year. There’s a lot to catch up with Greek firms, say observers.
Across Europe, Greece only earns less than 1% of all Chinese investment.
Xi said in his article that China is willing to accept more imports of quality agricultural products from Greece.
Another way in which the Chinese contribute to the Greek economy is through tourism, which in Greece continues to be a major economic driver. Every year, some 170,000 Chinese visit Greece — and that number is increasing.
“Many Chinese tourists avoid the sun and the beaches. Instead, they seem to be much more involved in city tourism, archaeology, art and luxury shopping,” said Yannidis Constantine, president of the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber (HCC) in Athens earlier this month.
In Greece, Xi will be attending the launch of the country’s first branch of Bank of China. Xi will also visit the Acropolis Museum before leaving Athens on Tuesday.
According to recent polls conducted by a US political research institute, the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of Greeks have a positive view of China.
The only EU country to top that figure is Bulgaria, where China is viewed positively by 55 percent of the population.
And over the past couple of years, Chinese financial assistance to crisis-ridden Greece has also created good will.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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