C h r i s t o s G. F a i l a d i s
Press & Communication Counsellor
Embassy of Greece in Beijing
on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the P.R.C.
C h r i s t o s G. F a i l a d i s
China's undisputable rise in the contemporary word and the country's prominent position in the present economic, political and even cultural arena has been a cause of celebration for all. Firstly, following the reforms of the post-Mao era, hundreds of millions of Chinese people have risen out of poverty and the Chinese nation has found yet again its central place in the international scene, as the name of the country suggest (Zhong-guo). Secondly, foreign nations sharing the vision of China's development have found a strong, yet peace-loving, political partner; a trustable economic collaborator able to deliver; and a reliable and effective communicator in the realm of science, technology, ideas and culture.
Among, these nations, Greece warmly embraced China's rise in all respects and consistently supported the furthering of our bilateral relations. In political terms, this has been evidenced in the unprecedented in number (more than forty over the period 2005-2009) high level Greece ministerial delegations to China, a number rivaled by many countries; these visits followed largely the visit of the Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis to China in the beginning of 2006. The unprecedented flourishing of our bilateral relations was epitomized by the visit of the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias to Beijing and Shanghai in June 2008, just before the opening of the Beijing Games. Last, the excellent level of our bilateral diplomatic relations is also evidenced in the increasing presence of Greece in China, with the opening of the Consulates General of Greece in Shanghai (2005) and Canton (2007), and most recently, with the opening of another Greece Press and Communication Office in Shanghai (as of September 1, 2009).
In the economic sphere, China ranks now among the top 5 trading countries of Greece; our country, with its vast commercial fleet and tankers (world's biggest) moves a sizable part of China's trade good and the country's imported oil. During this year, China's largest shipping company, COSCO, readies to start operations in Greece following a huge investment in Greek port facilities, thus acknowledging Greece's potential to become a principal gateway for exported Chinese goods to Europe. Besides, Greece has consistently emphasized the huge potential of Chinese tourism market, has sent several ministerial delegations to China to advance this cause and has successfully participated in all major tourism activities in China through its GNTO Office in Beijing.
Last but not least, few countries can be as proud as Greece for the flourishing of their cultural relations with China; the two nations, as cradles of the Western and Eastern civilization, have come ever closer through their fruitful cooperation prior and during Beijing's most successful Olympics in the summer of 2008. At the same time, Greece's equally successful Cultural Year in China in the 12month period preceding the Beijing Olympics has heralded a new era in the field of cultural cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.
Political-economic relations and cooperation
A major cornerstone in the development of Greece's relations with China was the visit of the country's current Prime Minister K. Karamanlis to Beijing and Shanghai in January 2006. The visit laid the foundations for the recent deepening of our bilateral relations as the two countries signed a “Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Relationship”. The visit also set out specific goals and prioritized various cooperation sectors, such as bilateral trade, shipping, tourism, the Olympic Games, educational relations, and culture.
The bilateral consensus for accelerating the strengthening of our bilateral relations in various fields was further confirmed by the visit of the President of the National Peoples Congress Wu Bangguo to Athens in May 2006.
President Papoulias' visit to China in June 2008, underscored the significance of the increased and intensified cooperation over the last years in all respects, and the need of further expanding and optimizing trade and economic cooperation.
The three-day visit of China's President Hu Jintao to Greece, in November 2008, heralded a new era in bilateral relations between the two countries.
Turning to what lies ahead, Greece is very much looking forward to distinguishing itself in the EXPO 2010 to be held in Shanghai. Greece shares China's vision that this unparalleled in size and importance mega-event, and “Economic Olympiad”, can contribute to the global efforts for overcoming the consequences of financial crisis; Shanghai Expo may underscore the commitment and willingness of all nations to work together in ofrder to advance this cause and strengthen international trade and economic cooperation.
The organization of the Cultural Year of Greece in China (October 2007 – September 2008) provided the Chinese audience with the rare opportunity to learn more not only about Greece's renowned ancient cultural heritage, but also about the lesser well know but equally important aspects of modern and contemporary Greek culture. Numerous theatrical performances, dance, archaeological and modern art exhibitions, opera, folk concerts, modern and popular music, conferences and book exhibitions constituted some of the facets of Greece's unique and unprecedented cultural presence in China during the 12-month period before the closing of Beijing's Summer Games.
The fact that the Beijing Olympics were the next after the Athens Games in 2004 has been a most promising coincidence in the history of the bilateral relations of the two countries. The widely acclaimed Athens Olympics, conducted both safely and successfully, showcased not only the Olympic culture, and the ideals of Peace and Truce; they also provided Greece – the birthplace of the Games in the antiquity and the country where the Games were revived in the modern era – the opportunity to present the country's new image: a beacon of stability, growth, dynamism, ability to deliver, and prosperity in its neighborhood, Greece demonstrated to a watching world that a small but proud country can rise to difficult challenges and acquit itself with honor. At the same time, Greece has the chance to unveil comparative advantages of hers that were not widely known. In the process, her partners, including China, came to perceive her anew as a credible strategic player with Greece qualities and great potential. Thanks to this historic coincidence, Greece and China jointly constructed a bridge of cooperation, thus enabling the world to receive loud and clear the messages of Peace, of Culture, of Virtue and of Humanitarianism.
Last, let me state that, in my opinion, one of the most successful forms of our Olympic cooperation, as has been repeatedly acknowledged by Chinese officials, was that in the field of media and communication. To further this cause, I had been invited to visit China repeatedly over the last few years (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008) in order to present Chinese authorities (GOCOG officials and spokespersons of the Beijing Municipal Government), with Greece's experience in communication issues pertaining to the organization and hosting of the Games, mainly the organizational functions and strategies of the Greek Press Center of Zappeion dedicated to the reception of non-accredited Media representatives during the Athens Games.
More broadly speaking, media cooperation between the two countries presents us with one of the most important tasks to be carried out in the near future. The two countries have regularly exchanged delegations of journalists for more than a decade, and have carried out high level visits between pertinent authorities including top officials from China's State Council Information Office. A cooperation agreement was signed between ERT and CCTV during the state visit of Press. Hu Jintao in Athens (November 2009). It is our sincere wish to see ever closer contacts and exchanges with our Chinese friends as today's media and mass communication contributes more than ever before to the development of our bilateral ties and friendship between our people.
GREECE is for CHINA the best friend in the European Union and China is for Greece the dynamic partner in the world forum. The two countries have a great past, they enjoy a creative present but mostly they draw a very promising future.
Please let me extend my warmest regards to your readers, and congratulate China for the country's 60th Anniversary, wishing peace and prosperity to the Chinese People!
(Christos G.Failadis is the Press & Communication Counsellor of the Embassy of Greece in Beijing )