Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming official visit to Greece will be a diplomatic feat that will translate traditional friendship into practical cooperation, says China's ambassador to this southern European country.
The two sides will sign more than 20 cooperation agreements and business contracts during Li's visit, covering investment, trade and finance, among others, Zou Xiaoli said in a recent interview, adding that they will also hold their first-ever maritime cooperation forum.
Noting that Li travels to Greece one year after Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' visit to China, Zou said China not only stood by Greece in the throes of the debt crisis, but is willing to work with it for Greece's economic recovery and development.
History has proved that Greece is one of China's most trustworthy friends, he said, recalling that even before the establishment of diplomatic ties, Greek ship-owners broke through blockade and helped China transport goods.
From the Beijing Olympics to the evacuation of Chinese nationals from Libya, Greece always stood ready to extend a helping hand, said the ambassador.
Enjoying a unique geographical advantage, Greece can be a bridge for the export of Chinese commodities and capital, said Zou. "Though limited in scale at the moment, trade and investment between China and Greece have a promising future."
Taking the Piraeus port as an example, he said, "if China-Greece economic and trade cooperation is a giant dragon, then Piraeus is the dragon's head. Once the dragon raises its head high, it will soon fly."
Meanwhile, Zou said that during the visit the two countries will sign an agreement to establish cultural centers in each other so as to provide a concrete vehicle for bilateral cultural exchanges and cooperation.
As a traditional maritime country, Greece has one of the largest merchant fleets in the world, said Zou, adding that China needs to learn from Greece's knowledge, development, management and protection of the oceans along with its experience in cultivating a network in the shipping industry.
China has 3 million square km of blue territory, and the oceans will be an important field for China's development and its contribution to the world in the future, said the ambassador.
"Therefore, strengthening maritime cooperation between China and Greece is a blessing to both countries and peoples as well as the whole world at large," said Zou.
As a return visit to Samaras' China trip last year, Li's visit shows that both sides attach high importance to their relations and hope the bilateral relationship can serve as a model for China's relations with other European countries, the ambassador concluded.
The Chinese premier flies to Athens on Thursday after wrapping up his official visit to Britain.