In this beautiful season when the pansies are in full bloom, I will soon lead a Chinese government delegation to Greece. My wish is to consolidate the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Greek people and open up new prospects for a deeper China-Greece relationship.
China and Greece, two ancient civilizations with proud history and splendid culture, have both made significant contributions to human civilization. I was fascinated by Greek mythology when I was a boy and many stories are still fresh in my mind. The spectacular scenes in Homer’s epic poems and the wise morals of Aesop’s Fables are well known in China, as are philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. As far as I know, the Chinese culture and ancient Chinese sages such as Lao-Tze and Confucius are also well known and respected in Greece.
In the past 42 years, since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and Greece have respected, trusted and helped each other. There are many touching stories about this true friendship tested by difficult times. We will never forget how Greece assisted us in three large-scale evacuations of overseas Chinese nationals. The Chinese people still remember vividly that back in February 2011, despite the mounting risks and difficulties amidst the war, Greek shipping companies provided vessels and helped 13,000 Chinese people leave Libya and transit in Greece on their way back home. Likewise, when Greece was caught in the sovereign debt crisis, China promptly extended help to the best of its ability. We are happy to see that through tremendous efforts, the Greek government and people have achieved notable progress in tackling the debt crisis. Our longstanding friendship has served as the solid foundation of the bilateral relationship.
The Chinese and Greek economies are mutually complementary with their own strengths, and there is huge potential for cooperation. Greece is accelerating privatization and infrastructure construction. China will encourage its well-established enterprises to play an active part in this process. The Piraeus port where Chinese company Cosco is involved in operations is performing well, contributing to local economic development and employment. We will work with Greece to make the port the best of its kind in the Mediterranean. China wants more cooperation with Greece in airport, rail, road and other infrastructure development. During the visit, I will attend the China-Greece Marine Cooperation Forum in Athens. I hope we can use this opportunity to expand our cooperation in the established areas of maritime transport, logistics and shipbuilding and boost cooperation in new areas of marine science and environmental protection. Such cooperation will inject strong impetus into the two countries’ economic and social development.
China and Greece, both renowned for their profound cultural heritage, enjoy broad prospects of people-to-people exchanges. Greece is the birthplace of the Ancient and Modern Olympic Games. Just like the Olympic Flame for the 2008 Beijing Games, not long ago, the Flame for the Youth Olympics in Nanjing was also lit in Greece. Cooperation for the Olympics has greatly deepened the Chinese people’s understanding of the Greek civilization. Greece boasts rich tourism resources. And many Chinese people long to visit the Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Apollo and other cultural heritage sites. Last year, nearly 100 million Chinese people traveled overseas. Tourism will become an important growth area for China-Greece cooperation. During the upcoming visit, the two sides will sign an agreement on the mutual establishment of cultural centers to facilitate cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
Greece is an important member of the European Union family. China, a staunch supporter of the EU integration process, wishes to see a more united and prosperous Europe. In this fast-changing world, China and the EU, as the biggest developing country and the biggest bloc of developed countries in the world, share growing common interests and have a greater need for each other. As Greece holds the rotating presidency of the EU, China will work more closely with Greece to implement the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation and make a greater contribution to the sustained and healthy development of China-EU relations.
China’s deepening reform and opening up in all respects will not only bolster its own economic development but also bring more opportunities to Greece and other countries in the world. The Chinese economy now enjoys steady growth, with GDP and other major indicators within a reasonable range. We are confident about meeting the growth targets set for this year by taking measures aimed at stable growth, structural adjustment and further reform. From a long-term perspective, China, with its large population, will remain a massive market, and the development gaps between its different regions and between its urban and rural areas hold much potential for China’s further development. China is well-positioned to maintain sustained and sound economic development. With its commitment to the path of peaceful development and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, China has benefited from and upheld the international order. China will continue to follow the policy of building amicable partnerships with its neighbors and work with other countries to jointly safeguard stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. China’s development will be an important component of the peaceful development of the world.
China and Greece are respectively the cradles of the Eastern and Western civilizations. Both our interactions in the past and our comprehensive cooperation today are a testament to the great appeal and infinite vibrancy of diverse civilizations. A deeper comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Greece is bound to contribute more to the well-being of our two peoples and the prosperity and progress of the world.
* Li Keqiang is premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.