Nesting between the trip of Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Shanghai, to attend the 2019 Expo Fair (where Greece was honored country, along with France), and the State visit of Chinese President Xi Zinping to Greece starting yesterday, a day-long Seminar was held last Friday to promote academic relations and research on China and Greece.
Co-organised by CASS/the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation (which offered the impressive venue for the Seminar, at Piraeus bay; the Laskaridis shipping family has long-dating relations with China) and China Daily (with some 900.000 readership) the seminar dwelt on existing China-Greece cooperation; the future potential for development of such cooperation (taking into account geo-political factors along trade and economic considerations); as well as academic and cultural communication (to which China always puts special emphasis, when speaking of “two ancient civilizations” in a way that sounds quite earnest). The seminar served as a launch-pad for a new book “The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and Greece”, as well as for a fresh venture on Chinese language to be established in Athens.
The number of Greek Government officials attending - A. Georgiadis, M. Varvitsiotis, G. Koumoutsakos - but also important Chinese counterparts - Xie Fuzhan, President of CASS, Zhou Shuchun, Publisher of China Daily, Huang ping, President of 17+1 Think Tanks Network /CASS along with Zhang Qiyue, Chinese ambassador to Greece and Yu Zenggang, CEO of Cosco-Greece, and allowed for in-depth discussion of the perspectives of the evolving Belt and Road Initiative of China, both for Greece and the overall S.E. Europe region.
Still, although the debates were quite extensive, one could not but mull over the question: is Greece still thinking of OBOR(One Belt, One Road) as an infrastructure-building and trade-enhancing venture? Of gigantic proportions, indeed, but quite traditional - while OBOR already is shifting to innovation (with 6G technology starting to be discussed as 5G is not yet fully digested, with artificial intelligence getting spread in several applications) as well to renewable energy development.
To rephrase the question: Greece has jumped early enough on the Chinese bandwagon, first with its shipping people, then with the Cosco venture in Piraeus – will it now put aside US reservations about 5G/Huawei and join in the new Chinese era? will it accelerate the shift towards renewables in a large scale, adequate to Chinese investment to DEH, the ailing Greek ex-monopoly limping ahead?