‘A golden period’ for bilateral relations

On June 5, 1972, as soon as the international environment was favorable, Greece established diplomatic relations with the Peoples’ Republic of China. Thirty-five years later, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Tian Xuejun spoke to Kathimerini about the past and future of Greek-Chinese relations. Could you give us an overview of the 35 years of diplomatic relations between China and Greece? What has been achieved during this period? June 5 this year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Greece. We are proud of what we have achieved in that 35 years. I’ll take some specific examples. The bilateral trade volume reached $2.28 billion in 2006, 1300 times more than 35 years ago, and Greece is now China’s No 1 trade partner in Southeast Europe. Service trade related to shipping has expanded rapidly. More than 60 percent of Chinese imports of crude oil and more than half of China’s cargo imports and exports are transported by Greek ships. In addition, Greece ranks among the top 10 overseas destinations for Chinese travelers. Now, our bilateral relationship has entered a golden period. It features frequent high-level visits, dynamic economic and trade cooperation, flourishing cultural events and close coordination in international affairs. The Chinese-Greek comprehensive strategic partnership established in January 2006 summarized our bilateral relations in the past years and made an outline for their future development. The commencement of direct flights between Beijing and Athens and Greek Cultural Year in China this autumn will inject new energy into our bilateral relations. Which are the most promising areas of future Greek-Chinese cooperation? With the concerted efforts of both sides, there is an inspiring and flourishing tendency toward rapid development in all fields. In my opinion, the most promising aspects are in the marine, tourism, Olympic and cultural fields, where our respective advantages are highly complementary. In the marine field, Greece has the largest and strongest merchant fleet in the world, while last year China became the No 1 shipyard of Greek ships. With the further development of the national economy of China, we can envision great cooperative potential. As for tourism, both China and Greece possess huge and invaluable resources so the potential for cooperation is enormous. The successive hosting of Olympic Games by Greece and China and Greek Cultural Year in China also offer excellent opportunities for cooperation. China is often pictured both as a powerhouse of the global economy and as a threat to the homegrown EU industry and manufacturing. What is your reaction toward those who feel threatened by Chinese competition? Against the background of globalization, fierce competition does indeed exist in some industries, particularly labor-intensive ones, between enterprises in some EU member states and China as well as other developing countries. But it is confined to those areas and not on a state level. China-EU economic and trade cooperation is complementary in nature. Mutual benefit and win-win progress remain the defining features of our trade and business ties. The continuous rise of China has been changing the balance of power in Asia and in the world. Which strategic goals is China pursuing? China’s development is peaceful, open, cooperative and harmonious in nature. We aim to build a harmonious society at home and work with other countries to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity. We will continue to pursue the independent foreign policy of peace, the path of peaceful development and the opening-up strategy for mutual benefit. We advocate equality and mutual respect among all countries and promote multilateralism, democracy and justice in international relations. We encourage strengthened cooperation and exchanges between countries, and urge the international community to implement the Millennium Development Goals. We work for a fair and just multilateral trading and financial system and to move economic globalization in a direction that benefits all countries. We encourage dialogue and mutual learning between countries, while respecting and preserving diversity in culture and development models. We are committed to jointly addressing global security issues through enhanced dialogue and coordination, and resolving disputes through dialogue and negotiation. The spectacular economic boom of China has not benefited its entire population. How worrisome are the social tensions of modern China? I think China’s economic boom has benefited its entire population, but to different degrees. With one of the widest gaps of domestic natural and geographic conditions as well as population and resources distribution, China is not expected to have a uniform development. However, the uneven development has always been an issue of great concern to the Chinese government. I am happy to tell you that specific plans, mechanisms and policies have been mapped out in our 11th Five-year program for 2006-2010, which is formulated in line with the scientific concept of development. And they have been carried out accordingly and smoothly. This is a long-term and Herculean task, which needs great efforts by more than one generation, but I firmly believe we must and will accomplish it. How are the preparations for the Olympic Games proceeding? When do you expect to be ready? At present, all the preparatory work including venue construction such as stadiums, sports event organizing, culture publicity, media services and security is all proceeding smoothly as scheduled. We appreciate very much the valuable experience we obtained from the Greek side. We welcome Greek friends to go to Beijing to watch the Olympic Games and we sincerely hope that Greek athletes will produce excellent performances in the Games. Recently it was reported that rice production around Beijing will stop in order to save water for the Olympic Games. What sacrifice is China making for the Games? And what are your expectations? Beijing has spent billions of dollars to achieve a Green Olympics with the concept of sustainable development, protecting the environment and resources, and maintaining the ecological balance. Before 2008, Beijing needs to further raise its green land coverage to 48 percent, sewage treatment rate to over 90 percent, and use-of-recycled-water rate to 50 percent. Relocation work for the city’s two major polluters, the Capital Iron & Steel Group and the Chemical Industry Area in the southeastern suburbs, is going well. Beijing also plans to make 90 percent of its public transport vehicles and 70 percent of local taxis adopt clean energies by the end of 2007. I think all the efforts and effects of the Green Olympics will be lasting and leave a precious legacy of environmental protection to China and the world. Addressing climate change What measures does China plan to take on climate change, given that in a few years’ time it will become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases? Though China has low emissions both historically and per capita (about 33 percent that of OECD countries), we attach great importance to climate change and have taken a series of policies and measures to address it. China’s CO2 emissions per percentage point of GDP are generally declining, with a decrease of 49.5 percent in 2004 as compared to 1990. In accordance with the provisions of the UNFCCC and its national circumstances, China’s National Climate Change Program (CNCCP) has been formulated. The key elements of the CNCCP are: Six guiding principles: to address climate change within the framework of sustainable development; to place equal emphasis on both mitigation and adaptation; to integrate climate change policy with other interrelated policies; to rely on the advancement and innovation of science and technology; to follow the principle of «common but differentiated responsibilities;» to actively engage in wide international cooperation. Overall objective: to make progress in controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; to enhance adaptation capacity; to make new progress in advancing science and technology R&D; to raise public awareness; to further strengthen institutions and mechanisms. Objectives by 2010: to reduce energy consumption per percentage point of GDP by 20 percent; to increase the share of renewable energy to 10 percent in primary energy supply; to increase the forest coverage rate to 20 percent.

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