Delphi was home to the famous oracle of Apollo, and people came here with great piety for enlightenment. No matter what specific questions we have in mind, I think we all have the same good wish for the future. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Greece. In such a significant year, the China discussions at the Forum give us a valuable opportunity to gather together to review the 50 years of friendship and brainstorm how to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation. I would like to thank the organizers for this special arrangement.
"Nothing, not even mountains and oceans, can separate people with shared goals and vision." As two representatives of ancient civilizations, China and Greece have a long history of friendly exchanges, with communication and interactions along the ancient Silk Road dating back to two thousand years ago. For half a century since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China-Greece relations have maintained unceasing momentum, becoming a model of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries of different sizes, systems and cultures. Among various sources of dynamism of the development of our relationship, high-level exchanges have always played an irreplaceable role. Most notably, in November 2019, President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Greece, ushering in a new era for China-Greece Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The continuous improvement of relevant platforms and mechanisms has laid a solid foundation for China-Greece cooperation. Our two countries established diplomatic relations in June 1972, and further forged Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in January 2006. The two sides set up the mechanism of joint economic and trade committee through the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement in June 1983, and launched the mechanism of three-year cooperation plan steering committee with the first Three-Year Cooperation Plan in Key Areas in May 2017. Greece and China signed the MOU to jointly advance the construction of the Belt and Road in August 2018, and became a full member of China-CEEC cooperation in April 2019. Thanks to the concerted efforts of our two sides over the past 50 years, especially the speeding-up of recent years, China and Greece have built the main frame of economic and trade cooperation, which features a matrix of joint driving of multilateral and bilateral mechanisms, mutual facilitation between policy guidance and concrete projects, and parallel advancing of trade and investment promotion. We are pleased to see that, Greek leaders attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China twice and the China-CEEC Leaders Summit. The joint economic and trade committee meeting has convened for 13 times, and the three-year cooperation plan steering committee is about to hold its 4th meeting. Greece participated in the China International Import Expo (CIIE) for four consecutive years, particularly as one of the Guest of Honor countries in 2019, and Greek companies show increasing interest in the China-CEEC Expo. These important cooperation platforms and mechanisms have brought tangible results to our two countries, and will undoubtedly further energize our bilateral economic and trade cooperation.
The steady growth of trade and investment has provided a strong impetus for China-Greece cooperation. Thanks to the sound development of our bilateral relations, the trade and investment cooperation has made great progress over the years, growing constantly both in size and quality. According to statistics from the Chinese side, as of the early 1990s, the bilateral trade between China and Greece had been less than 100 million US dollars, but by 2001, it jumped to 750 million US dollars. Last year, the bilateral trade broke the mark of 10 billion US dollars for the first time, reaching 12.15 billion dollars. Greece has become China's fourth largest trading partner among Central and Eastern European countries, and China remains Greece's third largest trading partner in the world and the largest outside the EU. It is worth noting that, Greek imports into China have grown rapidly in recent years, amounting to almost 1 billion dollars in 2021, a year-on-year increase of nearly 26%, and a dramatic rise of 244% compared with five years ago. Through the vigorous promotion in major exhibitions such as the CIIE, the Greek high-quality products such as olive oil, dairy products, wine and saffron are being welcomed by more and more Chinese consumers.
In terms of investment, according to statistics of the Greek side, over the decade since the debt crisis (2010-2021), net foreign direct investment inflows from China (including Hong Kong) totaled nearly 2.2 billion euros, making China the sixth in the world and the first outside Europe among the main sources of investment of Greece. China and Greece have carried out extensive mutually beneficial cooperation in such fields as transportation, energy, communication and finance, and have achieved fruitful results in terms of facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, and financial integration. For example, with the joint efforts of both sides, the Piraeus Port has become the largest container port in the Mediterranean and ranked among the top four in Europe within just a few years, creating over ten thousand jobs indirectly and contributing more than 1.4 billion euros to the local economy. In 2021, the Piraeus port bucked the trend of global crisis with pre-tax profit hitting a record high by increasing more than 33% year-on-year, making positive contribution to the economic recovery, tourism revival and supply chain stability in Greece and the wider regions. State Grid Corporation of China, as a strategic investor of Independent Power Transmission Operator, has always been committed to facilitating the transition of Greece's energy supply to green and clean. The Crete-Peloponnese interconnection project jointly promoted by both parties has already been put into commercial operation last year, realizing the grid interconnection between Greece's largest island and the mainland European and providing a significant boost to Greece's energy transformation.
The mutual understanding and mutual respect of the two peoples have given the greatest confidence to China-Greece cooperation. Both China and Greece are great nations boasting flourishing ancient civilizations. People of our two countries feel a natural affinity with each other, we are always able to look at things and understand each other through the prism of thousands of years of rich history and from the height of mutual learning between civilizations.
Our two countries have stood together through thick and thin. We will never forget that, Greek shipowners took great courage to transport much-needed goods to the Chinese people amid the Western embargo on the newly founded China. We will never forget that, Greece assisted the Chinese side in evacuating Chinese citizens safely from war-torn or unstable areas on four different occasions. When Greece was faced with the debt crisis, China lent a helping hand and stood firmly with Greece through the difficult time. When Covid-19 broke out, the Greek friends did not hesitate to show solidarity with China, and the Chinese side also provided large amounts of medical supplies to Greece without delay. The two peoples once again wrote a story of sharing weal and woe and helping each other.
In addition, the people-to-people exchange has been one of the highlights of our bilateral relations, with impressive achievements in such fields as Olympics, culture, tourism and education in recent years. With the strong support from Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, the 2022 Winter Olympics was very success, making Beijing the first "Dual Olympic City" in the world. The China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism kicked off in Athens last September, and last month the two sides further signed a joint action programme in the field of tourism for the next three years, outlining the road map for comprehensive expansion of cooperation and exchanges. In 2020, the world's first Online Chinese Classroom was officially launched at the University of Aegean. Last year the Business Confucius Institute at the Athens University of Economics celebrated its 10th anniversary, and the third Confucius Institute in Greece was officially unveiled at the University of Thessaly. Currently, seven universities in China offer full-time Greek language program for undergraduates. During the meeting with Prime Minister Mitsotakis in Athens, President Xi pointed out that exchanges of civilizations and mutually-beneficial cooperation constitute two main links in China-Greece relations. Civilization is enriched by mutual learning, and our life becomes colorful because of communication. It is precisely because we have "people-to-people connectivity" as the deep bond, that we can gather irresistible momentum and further promote the "soft connectivity" of development plans and "hard connectivity" of infrastructure.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The development of China-Greece relations has shown the world the beauty of harmony between great ancient civilizations, and our mutually beneficial cooperation has also demonstrated the vigor of joining hands in the new era. Today, we would like to express our profound gratitude to all those who have made active efforts and contributions for the advancement of our bilateral relations over the past half century and beyond. We benefit enormously from and highly cherish the deep foundation of friendship laid firmly by them. In the future, we will continue to count on wide and active support from more friends from all walks of life to further color the painting of friendship, which will not be blocked even by mountains and oceans.
Today, the world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century. The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the complex and turbulent international situation, poses serious risks on the global economic recovery and bring unprecedented challenges for the road ahead. Therefore, I would like to share my opinions on the development of China-Greece economic cooperation.
We should fully recognize that China’s development is an opportunity for the whole world. Since its reform and opening up in the late 1970s, in just a few decades, China has developed into the world’s second largest economy, the largest trader in goods, the largest country in terms of foreign capital inflows, and has become the largest trading partner for more that 120 countries and regions.
For many consecutive years, China’s contribution to global economic growth remained stable at about 30%, providing extensive opportunities for the whole world while achieving its own development. In 2013, China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. Since then, 181 countries and international organizations have signed more than 200 BRI cooperation documents with the Chinese side. The BRI has transformed from ideas to actions and from vision to reality, and has become the largest platform for international cooperation and the most popular public good in the world, bringing huge development dividends to all countries. According to a World Bank report, the full implementation of this initiative will increase international trade and global income by 6.2% and 2.9% respectively.
After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, China was the first among the world's major economies to control the epidemic and achieve economic growth, thereby securing the basic stability of global industrial chains and supply chains, all the while doing its utmost to help the international community. The Chinese side has so far provided large numbers of masks, protective clothing, ventilators and other medical supplies to 150 countries and 13 international organizations, has dispatched 37 medical expert teams to 34 countries, and has provided over 2.1 billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations, actively contributing towards building a global community of health for all mankind. In 2021, against tremendous domestic and international pressure, China achieved a growth rate of 8.1% and accounted for an estimated 18% of the world's total output, continuing to be the engine for global growth. As President Xi Jinping has pointed out, the world can count on China as a promoter of world peace, contributor to global development, and upholder of the international order. We are willing to work with Greece and other countries to make new contribution to the peace, stability, development and prosperity of our world.
We should ensure that China-Greece cooperation remains a stable and strong pivot for overall China-EU cooperation. As two major forces and markets in the world, China and Europe are important partners. In the pre-Covid 2019, both the first and final foreign visits of President Xi of the year were paid to European countries, fully reflecting the great importance China attaches to the development of its relations with the EU.
Trade protectionism and anti-globalization trends are currently on the rise, while provocative rhetoric targeting China-EU relations makes an appearance from time to time as an effort to claim relevance by some people. Anyone without a prejudiced viewpoint or ulterior motives should be able to clearly see that, it is in the interests of both sides to strengthen positive interaction and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the EU. China has always firmly supported a united, stable, prosperous and strong Europe. The China-CEEC cooperation brings added value to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership and helps advance the European integration process.
Greece is the "spiritual home" of Europe, an important member of the EU, a major partner of the Belt & Road Initiative, and the "fresh blood" of the China-CEEC cooperation. China and Greece hold the same or similar positions on major issues such as free trade and multilateralism. Our bilateral cooperation should always be a supporting pillar of the China-EU cooperation and safeguard the overall development of the China-EU relations. In fact, the role of China-Greece cooperation in promoting regional development is becoming increasingly prominent. Over the past few years, the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route starting from the Port of Piraeus has developed rapidly into the "third trade route" between China and Europe, connecting 9 countries of Central and Eastern Europe with a total population of 71 million, thus playing an important role in ensuring the stability and smooth operation of supply chains. Looking forward to the future, the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Greece will surely further strengthen the post-pandemic economic recovery of Europe and continuously improve the connectivity between Asia and Europe, to make the Belt & Road Initiative a "belt of development" to the benefit of the world and a "road to happiness" for people of all countries.
We should actively expand our bilateral cooperation both in scale and extent in the post-Covid era. At present, China is accelerating the construction of a new development pattern of "dual circulation" with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. Greece is also actively implementing the "Greece 2.0" plan for its recovery and transformation. We would like to further align the development strategies of our countries and upgrade our bilateral cooperation in various fields.
In addition to further consolidation and deepening of our existing pragmatic cooperation, I would like to highlight that, there is still great potential for China and Greece to cooperate in areas such as digital transformation and green development. China has built the world's largest 5G and optical fiber network, with its 5G base stations accounting for over 60% of the global total. We have also established the world's largest carbon market and clean power generation system, with total installed capacity of renewable energy exceeding 1 billion kilowatts, while the installed capacities of hydropower, wind power, solar photovoltaic power and nuclear power plants under construction each ranking top in the world. Greece offers unique conditions for developing green energy, with sufficient reserve of talent and fertile ground for innovation. Looking ahead, we hope enterprises from both sides will communicate and cooperate in depth with greater determination and long-term commitment, to give full play to our respective advantages and step forward side by side on the path towards a green, digital and resilient economy, thus lending renewed impetus to the high-quality development of our bilateral cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In his speech at the 2022 World Economic Forum, President Xi Jinping pointed out that "amidst the raging torrents of a global crisis, countries are not riding separately in some 190 small boats, but are rather all in a giant ship on which our shared destiny hinges. Small boats may not survive a storm, but a giant ship is strong enough to brave a storm." Greece is the world's largest shipowning nation. We believe our Greek friends can understand the profound meaning of the expression "to cross a river in the same boat" better than anyone else. Only by sticking together through thick and thin, only through solidarity and cooperation can we find the right way to overcome the crisis.
"Victory is ensured when people pool their strength; success is secured when people put their heads together." Today we might not have the chance to receive a sacred divination by the Oracle of Delphi. However, I believe that the people's hearts indeed represent the "oracle". As long as we make the well-being of the people our starting point, we will be able to move forward hand in hand and overcome any difficulties together. With the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-Greece diplomatic relations marking a new starting point, let us jointly create a brighter future for our bilateral economic and trade cooperation!