According to a recent New York Times article, China has become Greece‘s “most ardent and geopolitically ambitious suitor.”
“[Chinese investments] have begun to pay off, not only economically but also by apparently giving China a political foothold in Greece, and by extension, in Europe,” the article said, adding that “it’s a kind of neo-colonialism without the gunboats.”
The accusation is undoubtedly absurd. Colonialism is a policy of a nation seeking to exploit and pillage other territories by military, political or economic means, and involves unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony. China’s investments in Greece are mutually beneficial and have no intention to pillage or manipulate the nation.
Different from the European Union, which has treated Athens as a delinquent borrower, Beijing designates the country as a trusted partner and has provided it with financial support. With an investment of half a billion euros ($594 million) from China COSCO, Greece’s Piraeus has been transformed into the Mediterranean’s busiest port, attracting nearly 1 million tourists in 2016, a 12-percent increase from 2015. The number of visitors to the port is estimated to reach a new high in 2017.
And the 1,000 jobs created in Piraeus by COSCO have helped revive the local job market. In addition, Piraeus, as a leading project of China’s Belt and Road initiative, has tremendously boosted infrastructural connectivity and trade connections of the whole Europe. There is no doubt that Beijing’s infrastructure initiative has brought many economic opportunities for the West, and a number of European companies, for instance, Schneider, are attaching increasing importance to the Belt and Road.
Some Western countries are concerned that China targets small countries in need of cash and attempts to buy their support for human rights and other sensitive issues. Earlier, Greece prevented the EU from condemning China’s human rights record, but this is a right choice made independently by Athens. The Chinese government never asked Greece for support on the human rights vote, and Greek officials have reiterated that the country, despite Chinese investments, identifies with and is loyal to the EU. In May, a Greek-American consortium Calamos Investments defeated a Chinese bid to take over a major Greek insurer, which proves that Athens is not under Beijing’s sway.
Hyping China’s “neo-colonialism,” The New York Times is driven by Western centrism. We have a subtle feeling that the worry over China’s investment probably indicates deeper apprehension of Western civilization’s dominance status being challenged. Beijing has long been seeking win-win development, and the West should regard China’s rise and investments with an open mind.