Chinese and Greek officials, business leaders and scholars say the success story of cooperation between the two countries and the recent exchange of high-level visits by their leaders will take bilateral relations to a new height.
The Conference on Greece-China Relations and the Belt and Road Initiative held in Piraeus on Friday gathered senior officials, business executives, academics and scholars from the two countries. It happened two days before President Xi Jinping pays a state visit to Greece from Sunday to Tuesday at the invitation of Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis just returned from a trip to China, where he led a 200-strong government and business delegation to the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai and met Xi.
China's Ambassador to Greece Zhang Qiyue, who went back to China recently to facilitate the visit of Mitsotakis' delegation, applauded the high-level visits.
"After these two important visits, our relationship, the Greek-Chinese relationship and friendship, are entering a new era. … We are opening a new chapter," she told the conference.
"We will have much more interaction. The comprehensive and strategic partnership will really intensify. The depth and width of this relationship will develop very much."
"Here in Greece everybody is very excited about the visit (by Xi) and we expect a lot of results," said Panos Laskaridis, president of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, which promotes Greek culture.
Greek Minister of Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis said there was a political struggle when China Ocean Shipping Company invested in the Piraeus port 10 years ago.
"After 10 years, everybody can say that this is an important investment for the country. It helps Piraeus to accelerate in trade and productivity and to make it one of the biggest ports in the European Union and this planet," he said.
"It helps both China and Greece in their economic relationship and the European Union as a whole, so it was a very big example of success," said Georgiadis, who is also vice-president of the New Democracy party, which won the country's general election in July.
The Port of Piraeus has soared from 93rd to 32nd in world port capacity ranking, with its handling of containers reaching 4.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units, a standard size container, in 2018.
Greek Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, a former minister of shipping, maritime affairs and the Aegean, called it "definitely a success story among the two countries' cooperation".
He also described Greece's participation this year in China's 16+1 grouping with Central and Eastern European countries as "very important", and said Greece wants to promote and advance the cooperation.
Greece was the first country among developed European countries to join the BRI when it signed a memorandum of understanding in August 2018.
Xie Fuzhan, president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the BRI is already in a new era of high-quality development, its principles widely recognized, its partnership greatly expanded, its key areas making headway and its cooperation mechanism further improved.
"The fast changing international situation and the rise of populism, racism, unilateralism and protectionism has posed a big challenge to the high-quality of development of the BRI and the community of a shared destiny for mankind," Xie said.
"China and Greece, as two nations with ancient civilizations, have shown responsibility and wisdom in tackling global issues by promoting the exchanges of different civilizations and deepened, mutually beneficial cooperation among nations," he said.
"I am confident that if countries and regions involved in the BRI find synergy in development goals, tap their respective advantages and give full play to their cooperation potential, it will propel the BRI into a high-quality development path to deliver benefits for their people," said Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily.
The meeting was organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation and China Daily.
Han Baoyi contributed to this story.