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Speech by Chinese Ambassador Zou Xiaoli at the Sino-Hellenic Maritime Seminar


Dr. Sun Licheng, President of CCS,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Calispera Sas! I remember being invited to address the Sino-Hellenic Maritime Seminar for the first time in 2014. Through this platform and the Mediterranean Committee, I have come to know many Greek shipowners and entrepreneurs that have helped my work a lot. Here I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to President Sun Licheng, the CCS, and the shipping communities from both countries.

The past two years have seen tremendous progress in maritime cooperation between China and Greece. During the visit to Greece of H.E. Premier Li Keqiang in June 2014, the China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum was successfully held. 2015, the year of China-Greece Maritime Cooperation, produced nearly 30 outcomes. Currently, maritime cooperation between the two countries has gone beyond the traditional sectors of shipbuilding and ship-repairing to port construction, marine equipment, marine technology, marine economy, sea tourism, and maritime culture, etc. With over 150 stands, a new high in the history of its participation in the international shipping exhibition, China has once again become the largest foreign delegation at "Posidonia", which was opened yesterday. Greece has served as an important bridge in maritime cooperation between China and Europe and even the world. Maritime cooperation has become a bright namecard, which leads cooperation in various fields to higher levels.

Greece has announced the visit of Prime Minister Tsipras to China in coming July in the year which marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Greece. This visit will be of far-reaching significance. Leaders of the two countries will lay out plans for bilateral cooperation in various areas for the future, which will usher in a new stage in China-Greece relations. To realize this goal, the efforts and contributions from various communities are called upon, for the end purpose of the development of bilateral relations is to benefit peoples of the two countries. As the Chinese Ambassador to Greece, I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to share with you some of my considerations regarding our cooperation.

First of all, China and Greece need to deepen mutual understanding and trust. I often say to the Chinese delegations visiting Greece that Greece, while dealing with the debt problem and the Middle East refugee crisis, is also playing an important role in maintaining stability in the Mediterranean. And its status as a shipping and energy hub is increasingly stronger. In addition to abundant historical, cultural, and tourism resources, Greece also boasts outstanding scientists and innovative businesses and institutes. Greece will play a unique role in the development of the "Belt and Road" Initiative, launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping two years ago and warmly embraced by the international community. I am also trying to make it understood by the Greek society that China is sincere in advocating mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit for win-win results, which has been matched by real actions. The strategic significance of China-Greece relations is reflected in all areas, political, economic, cultural, social, and people-to-people exchanges, the impact of which is going beyond bilateral scope and reaching the region and the world. The joint revival of China and Greece, two ancient civilizations of the East and the West, will make new historical contributions to the progress and development of mankind.

Second, the two sides need to build more platforms between the two countries for regular exchanges and sustainable cooperation. The past two years have seen increasing exchanges in various areas, but there still lack mechanisms or platforms for regular exchanges. Thanks to the support and efforts of the two governments and people of various sectors, the first China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum was held in Athens in 2014 during the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. I hope the forum can be continued during the visit of Prime Minister Tsipras in China. Just imagine if SEV, SETE, the Association of Greek Exporters, and the associations and unions of Greek Shipowners all set up platforms for regular exchanges with their Chinese counterparts, how close our relations will become? I hope the CCS and Greek shipowners that have strong ties with China will lead by example in building more bridges between the two countries.

Third, the two sides need to tap the potential of mega-projects like COSCO's investment in Piraeus Port. This is the largest and most important project between the two countries so far. It is the "dragon head" of our cooperation, which represents confidence and hope. We are expecting that the Hellenic Parliament could approve the "Concession Agreement" at an early date so that large-scale investment cooperation scheme can be kicked off, which will create tens of thousands of new jobs and inject strong vitality into the Greece economy. Besides, to expand bilateral trade volume, to help boost Greek export to China in particular, the most efficient way is to develop cross-border E-commerce. It's hoped that relevant authorities and sector organizations of the two countries, from an overall and strategic perspective, could enhance their synergy in making it happen as soon as possible.

Fourth, the two sides should promote more cultural, educational, and academic exchanges between the two countries. This is a responsibility not only for the two governments, but also for the business communities and people of the two countries. Currently, the number of Greek students in China is just around 50. The organizations and academic research institutes devoted to cultural and academic exchanges between the two countries are expected to increase their influence by organizing activities aiming to promote mutual understanding of the two sides. Cooperation is still limited among press, museums, and publication houses of the two countries. All this stands at odds with our status as ancient civilizations and the need of the development of bilateral relations, and must be properly addressed soon. So I call upon competent businesses of the two sides especially those working in the marine sectors to actively support and engage in cultural, educational, and academic exchanges of the two countries, the significance and impact of which will be far-reaching and long-lasting.

Ladies and gentlemen,

China-Greece relations are facing rare development opportunities despite some difficulties and challenges. The shipping and ship-building communities of the two countries have enjoyed long history of good traditions and cooperation, also thanks to the efforts made in recent years by the CCS and the Mediterranean Committee. It is my sincere wish that all of you present here will bring more wisdom and strength into full play for the further development of comprehensive and strategic partnership between our two countries and two peoples.

Efharisfo poli!


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