By Tasos Kokkinidis for Greekreporter
Statues of Confucius and Socrates were unveiled in Athens on Thursday to mark an event launching the “Greece-China Year of Culture & Tourism in 2021.”
The installation of sculptures titled “Confucius & Socrates: a Meeting” was donated by the Art Museum of China, and adorns the Ancient Agora of Athens.
Culture and tourism define Greece-China relations, said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the event. The Greek premier discussed with China’s President Xi Jinping the initiative on the phone in July. They agreed that the “Greece-China Year of Culture & Tourism” is a good opportunity to further strengthen relations and increase tourist flows between the two countries.
On Thursday, Mitsotakis celebrated the fact that the two countries’ diplomatic relations will have mark 50 years in 2022, and he added that “these bonds will expand dynamically into the future.”
The two countries’ culture and civilization go back thousands of years, he said, “and although they have evolved in distance from one another, they have always focused on the same ecumenical values,” he highlighted.
“The more one country arouses the interest of another, the more attractive the destination becomes,” added Mitsotakis in reference to tourism, and “this is why Greece’s goal next year is to welcome more Chinese friends than ever before.”
Closing his speech, Mitsotakis spoke the words of Confucius, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and of Socrates, “the most valuable acquisition is a steady friend.”
Greece eager to attract investments from China
Greece continues to maintain close ties with China, despite EU and US concerns. Athens is eager to attract Chinese investors, who are just as keen on putting their money into Greece.
China, primarily its state-owned shipping giant COSCO, jumped into Greece when the company took over running the port of Piraeus and has been expanding it into one of the most used in the EU and one of the best after decades of mismanagement.
COSCO started in 2008 with the acquisition of a container terminal, culminating in 2021 with an acquisition of 67 percent of the company running the port, an entry point for China’s Silk Road initiative and plans to use Piraeus as a gateway to the EU.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visited Greece in 2019, touring the port just outside Athens with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. While there he called Piraeus “the head of the dragon” for a new Beijing investment drive in the country.
Greece hopes that it can further its interests in partnership with China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Recently, Mitsotakis expressed Greece’s appreciation for China’s stable stance in favor of settling the Cyprus issue on the basis of UN Security Council decisions.
In another sign that Greece wants to maintain close relations with China, Mitsotakis accepted an invitation to attend the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be held in Beijing.