Xi’s visit to Greece deeps cultural, economic ties

New agreements signed

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Greece had economic and cultural outcomes, and led to the signing of 16 new agreements to collaborate on areas such as renewable energy, infrastructure, and agriculture. It also included an extradition treaty, despite growing tensions in Hong Kong sparked by that Special Administrative Region’s concerns over increased extradition access by China.

Cultural links . . .

Xi’s visit was framed as “the alliance of two ancient cultures.” The two leaders linked Confucius with Socrates, saying the Greek and Chinese people are the “carriers of great ancient civilizations.” They even found unexpected common ground over the reclamation of historical artifacts. At a visit to the Acropolis Museum, Xi assured his Greek audience that China supports Greece’s repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles, currently displayed at the British Museum in London. China has its own history of historical artifacts being taken abroad – but the show of support highlights how China is using culture to build links in its Belt and Road Initiative linking China with Europe.

An anchor point in Western Europe . . .

According to Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Survey, Greece has the highest positive view of China in southern or western Europe, a result reflected in Greece’s openness to Chinese investment in recent years. China needs Greece too: while Germany and France are taking more conservative steps toward engagement with China, Greece provides a foothold for China’s influence in NATO and the EU. However, the two countries’ growing affinity may meet push-back – just a few days ago, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross commented on Chinese participation in Greece’s 5G plan, saying, “Greece should be wary of close trade ties with the Chinese.”