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Speech by Ambassador Zou Xiaoli at the Symposium on China-Greece Higher Education and Research Cooperation
2016-02-25 18:22

Your Excellency, Mr. Pantis, Secretary General for Education, Research and Religious Affairs,

Dear Mr. Bratakos, President of TEI,

Respected representatives of universities and research institutions of the two countries,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning!

It gives me great pleasure to attend the symposium on China-Greece higher education and research cooperation together with administrative personnel and scholars from 30 institutions of higher learning from Zhejiang Province and representatives of over 10 universities, research institutes and relevant organizations of Greece. My special thanks go to TEI, host of today's event. Just now President Bratakos gave me a brief account of TEI and gave me a tour of the beautiful campus. I am impressed. I would also like to thank General Secretary Pantis for attending and addressing the symposium, which shows the support of the Greek government for expanding exchanges and cooperation in the area of higher education and research. Today's symposium is the largest and highest-level of its kind since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries 43 years ago. It conforms to the development of our two countries and is a reflection of the ever deepening of bilateral relations. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Greece, I would like to offer warm congratulations to the convening of the symposium.

Both China and Greece have a long tradition of honoring education and research. Our ancestors made splendid contribution to humanities and science, with great influence on the development of human civilization. History has told us repeatedly that higher education and research is an important foundation for a country's vitalization and prosperity, and a crucial yardstick for its international competitiveness and influence. Today China is doing its very best for its economic transformation and upgrading and to realize, through innovation, medium-to-high level of economic development from medium-to-high growth rate, for which institutions of higher education and research shoulder important responsibilities. Reforms are being carried out in various areas to bring Chinese higher education and research to an international level and to meet the demands of changing circumstances and tasks. During my two years in Greece, I have witnessed the most difficult period for this country for the past 40-plus years. However, I have never lost confidence of Greece, for it is a country with a full-fledged educational and research system, large numbers of world-class institutes and businesses with great innovation capacity, as well as high-caliber engineers and technicians who represent the hope and future of Greece.

I have been told on many occasions by Greek leaders, university presidents, scientists, and entrepreneurs that in many renowned universities worldwide the best students are of Greek and Chinese origin. In developed countries in Europe and the US, there are many outstanding scientists of Greek or Chinese descent. The whole world stands to benefit if Greece and China join hands in the cultivation of personnel and research. I have no doubt of this. My expectations are high, for we have already taken an encouraging step in this direction.

During the period between 2012 and 2015, China and Greece had implemented 37 inter-governmental research projects, covering Nano materials, agro-bio technology and food, health and bio medicine, information and communication technologies, renewable energy and energy-saving, environmental protection, space technology, cultural heritage protection, etc. Last year, under the framework of China-Greece Maritime Cooperation, bilateral cooperation was expanded to marine economy, climate change, bio diversity, volcano and earthquake, marine tourism, etc. At the beginning of this year, the Palace Museum of China and FORTH of Greece signed a cooperation agreement to set up a joint research office devoted to the application of laser technology on the cleansing and protection of cultural heritage. After the introduction into China of greenhouse technologies of Athens Agricultural University by China Agricultural University, the two sides reached agreement on cooperation in organic agriculture, environmental protection, and agriculture-related technology training. Next month the Jiangxi Academy of Science will send people to Greece to discuss potential cooperation on energy-saving buildings. In addition, the Athens University, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Piraeus University, and University of Yoannina are training Chinese professionals in Greek language, history, maritime affairs and port management.

Looking forward, China and Greece should further improve the level of cooperation in higher education and research. I hope that a lot of constructive ideas and suggestions will come out of the symposium. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts.

First of all, the scale of inter-university exchanges and exchange of students should be boosted to promote mutual understanding. There are over 2800 institutions of higher learning in China, with 40 million on-campus students. In 2015, the number of college graduates reached 7.49 million. Zhejiang Province alone has sent representatives of over 30 universities to visit Greece this time, among which 8 will enter into cooperation agreements with the Technological Educational Institute of Athens (TEI). It reflects the tremendous potential and enthusiasm for cooperation in higher education between our two countries. Currently, there are less than 50 Chinese students in Greece, most of whom are here on government scholarships. I hope that initiatives will be taken by the Greek government to attract more Chinese students to study in Greece on their own expenses. On that basis, we can explore possibilities of joint running of schools.

Second, we can jointly cultivate high-caliber professionals of application technologies. Of the 30 Chinese institutes from Zhejiang Province, a large proportion are vocational and technological schools, which is connected to the fact that Zhejiang enjoys an open economy with a vibrant private sector that calls for more technological personnel. With more Chinese investment and tourists in Greece, more job opportunities will be created for Greek technicians. Greece has international competitiveness in technological education, with rich experience in shipbuilding, shipping, trade, tourism, agriculture, food, art and cultural heritage protection. They can well pursue win-win cooperation with their Chinese counterparts and enterprises to jointly carry out human resource training.

Third, we can enhance joint R&D and accelerate the application of research findings. The institutions of higher learning and research of the two sides have comparative strength and are complementary to each other in research areas, equipment and funding, market development, and international exchanges. China is ready to provide market and funding for research findings of Greece and help Greece to export more quality commodities and services to China. The Chinese side is also ready to discuss with Greece the possibility of setting up joint labs, scientific parks, and joint ventures; carrying out commodity research and manufacturing catering to Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, and Middle East, and jointly exploring third-party markets.

Fourth, governments of the two countries should coordinate overall planning to build platforms for higher education and research cooperation. We already have between us a joint committee for scientific and technological cooperation, which is in charge of the collection and coordination of projects. In the area of education, there is only an agreement on the exchange of students. This has fallen short of the development of bilateral relations and also falls behind education and research cooperation between China and other European countries, making more steps urgent. The two sides should incorporate higher education and research cooperation into the three-year cooperation programme between the two countries now under discussion. This year marks the year of cultural exchanges and cultural industry cooperation. The Asia-Europe Scientific Innovation Conference will be held in Athens. China and Greece are respectively coordinator for Asia and Europe. We should seize the opportunities, draw reference from advanced international concepts and practice, take into consideration our national conditions and realistic needs, improve inter-governmental cooperation mechanisms on education and research, and guide the active participation of various communities for educational exchanges and cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Higher education and research bears on the future of a country and a nation. Investment in higher education and research is investment in the future. The comprehensive and strategic partnership between China and Greece is entering the second decade. Our cooperation in the Port of Piraeus is having an encouraging momentum and broad prospects. We should take a strategic and long-term perspective, and push cooperation on higher education and research to a new high so as to provide strong intellectual and personnel support for the development of bilateral relations, serve socioeconomic development of the two countries with more fruitful results of innovation and build a new bridge of friendship and cooperation between China and Europe and between Asia and Europe. In his speech, Secretary General Pantis said that although Greece is facing various difficulties, the Greek people and the educational and research community have never lost confidence about the future. I was deeply touched. President Bratakos emphasized that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, which passed strength and hope to us. Today, an important step has been taken in educational cooperation between China and Greece. Universities of Zhejiang and TEI are pioneers. I am convinced that more and more institutions of higher learning and research institutes will join you. Let's hold our hands even tighter to strengthen cooperation and march towards brighter prospects with full confidence! Our goal will surely be realized. I wish the symposium a great success.

Thank you all!

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