|48 Years of Friendship and Cooperation|
48 years ago on June 5th, 1972, China and Greece established diplomatic ties, which marked a milestone in the history of relations between the two ancient civilizations. Our bilateral relations have since advanced in strides. In November, 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Greece, ushering our comprehensive strategic partnership to a new era. Jointly fighting the Covid-19 epidemic gives this year's anniversary special significance, further consolidating the friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
Friendship Deeply-rooted in Civilizations
The friendly exchanges between our two peoples could trace back to ancient times. In 5th Century BC, the ancient Chinese and Greek civilizations flourished on the eastern and western side of the Eurasia continent. That was a golden age of brilliant thoughts and culture for our civilizations, with such shining names as Confucius, Mencius and Laozi in China, and Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in Greece.
Many unearthed cultural relics along the ancient Silk Road bear witness to the connection and exchanges between our two countries. The echoes of great thoughts from the East and the West not only contributed to the prototype of dialogues between civilizations, but also laid the first and long-lasting cornerstone for the deep amity and intimacy between the Chinese and Greek people. This natural affinity that we hold for each other is the root of our unparalleled mutual trust and mutual respect, the cultural foundation of China-Greece comprehensive strategic partnership.
The people-to-people exchange has been one of the highlight of our relations. As a way to learn about the historical and cultural heritage, exchanges of museum exhibitions and performance tours of art organizations have become fixtures of our relationship. China is a growing source of foreign tourists for Greece, with Chinese visitors reaching around 200,000 last year. During President Xi Jinping's state visit to Greece last year, the two sides announced the year 2021 to be the China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism.
A friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
Our two countries have stood together through thick and thin. We will never forget that in the 1950's, only a few years after the founding of the People's Republic of China, Greek shipowners took the courage to bring much-needed goods to the Chinese people amid the embargo imposed on China. We will never forget that, for several times, Greece assisted the Chinese side in evacuating Chinese citizens safely from war-torn or unstable areas in the region. When Greece was faced with the severe debt crisis, China lent a helping hand and stood firmly with Greece through the difficult time.
This year, the outbreak of Covid-19 has posed grave challenge to the world. Our two countries have been jointly addressing this common difficulty by working side by side, and contributing to the global endeavor. At the critical time of China's epidemic prevention and control efforts, Greek leaders, government officials and people expressed support to China in various ways. As the situation in Greece became trying, the Chinese side provided and facilitated the purchase and transportation of large amounts of medical supplies. Chinese enterprises and overseas Chinese in Greece have time and again donated many urgently-needed medical supplies to the Greek organizations and hospitals. We have further enhanced the profound friendship through mutual support and cooperation, highlighting the sense of solidarity inherited from our ancient civilizations at a time when finger-pointing and blame-shifting has been rampant.
Partnership Strengthened by Win-win Cooperation
Greece is an important player in the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative. The Piraeus Port project is an excellent example. After ten years of joint efforts, the port has become the largest port in the Mediterranean and the fourth largest in Europe, creating more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs locally. Its global ranking soared from 93rd in 2010 to 25th this year. In the first quarter of this year, despite the impact of the epidemic, the containers throughput of the port increased by 3.9% year-on-year to 1.23 million TEUs. Other investment projects are also making headway.
Bilateral practical cooperation in other fields is also advancing on a steady track. In 2019, the two countries' total trade volume reached 8.47 billion US dollars, up by 19.6 percent. The two sides are pressing ahead with the List of Key Projects within the Cooperation Framework 2020-2022, covering transportation, energy, information and communications, manufacturing, research and development, finance, among other sectors. Although bilateral trade and traveling have been impeded by the epidemic in the first quarter of this year, the latter half of this year will see the gradual return to normal with the two countries both taking necessary epidemic prevention and control measures while promoting economic development. Our practical cooperation will enjoy fresh opportunities, with our friendship consolidated by the joint fight against Covid-19 to be transformed into strong driving force of our relations.