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Heart-to-heart communication makes lasting China-Greece friendship

By Ma Xiaoning (People's Daily)    16:01, November 12, 2019

Containers are loaded at the starting port of the China-Europe Land-Sea Express route. Photo by Han Bingchen from People’s Daily

The Port of Piraeus, a port jointly managed by Chinese and Greeks, is a witness of China-Greece friendly relationship and common interests.

Fu Chengqiu is the CEO of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA). As he introduced, the layout of the 89-year-old meeting room of the PPA’s board of directors remains almost the same with that before the port was taken over by China COSCO Shipping Corporation.

Except for the two bronze nameplates hanging on a wall where the names of the Chinese chairman and PPA board of directors are newly added, all decorations there, including desks and chairs, as well as the decorative pictures on the wall, have not been replaced. This reflects the Chinese company’s respect for and understanding of the local culture and people.

As a seaside country, Greece is a nation of seafarers. Its people’s lives are closely related to ports and marine transport, and the Greek people take pride in this.

Ten years ago, Greece was hit by the global financial crisis, the European debt crisis and domestic debt crisis. The heavy burden almost paralyzed the Port of Piraeus, which used to be the glory of the country.

It saddened the Greek people. While desiring to rejuvenate the port, they also feared that the advent of Chinese investment could take away their jobs.

To assure local people, China COSCO Shipping Corporation promised that the port will always be a ‘Greek people’s port’, and the company’s employees will cherish the port in the same way they cherish their own eyes and will do everything to modernize the port.

Under the care of both sides, New impetus has been injected to the port. It has become a busy terminal frequently visited by giant cargo ships and luxurious cruises, and container trailers are running rapidly on the piers

At the port, containers loaded with electronic products made by Samsung are directly shipped to Slovakia, and the port also has a maintenance department to fix vessels from the world. The Port of Piraeus is vividly presenting the image of a modernized busy terminal.

The Port of Piraeus. Photo by Zhang Penghui from People’s Daily

Now, the Greek people no longer worry about their jobs being taken away. Although China COSCO Shipping Corporation owns a two-thirds stake in the port, only 23 of the port managers are Chinese, while the port creates about 10,000 jobs for local community directly and indirectly.

Besides boosting local employment, the port has helped Piraeus city and its neighbors increase fiscal revenue through its successful operation. The Chinese company has fulfilled its commitment and earned trust of local people as it keeps the port a ‘Greek people’s port’.

The Port of Piraeus has undergone a lot of changes. The most prominent one is that it has risen from a tributary port to the biggest port in the Mediterranean. In 2018, it became the world's 32nd largest port in capacity, up from 93th in 2010.

The mentality of local people has also changed. They feel grateful toward the Chinese company from the bottom of their hearts. “Besides China, I couldn’t remember who else that had taken the initiative to invest in the port when it was regarded as being investment-unworthy,” said Tassos Vamvakidis, commercial manager of Piraeus Container Terminal.

Heart-to-heart communication makes lasting friendship. The success of the Port of Piraeus has once again proved that cooperation based on mutual understanding, mutual appreciation, and mutual respect is sustainable.

The Port of Piraeus is both a project under Greece’s strategy of building an important international logistic transfer hub and one under the joint construction of the Belt and Road. Its development is an issue of common concern for leaders of the two countries, and carries the aspiration for a better life of the two peoples. Its future is of great expectation.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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