Since 2013 the Chinese government has adopted a global infrastructure development strategy, investing in dozens of countries and international organizations: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In this context China also invested in Greece, and especially in the port of Piraeus.

As he publishes the financial review Handelsblatt, “the 1990 Piraeus was still a rather sluggish port. In 2008, the Chinese state-owned company Cosco signed a contract with the government of Athens to build and operate a new container terminal. During the sovereign debt crisis, Cosco secured a majority stake in the port – at the bargain price of 368.5 million euros. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the port in 2019, he stated that this is “the head of the dragon in Europe”.

The rise of Piraeus is unprecedented: container handling has increased twelvefold compared to 2008, while in the first half of 2023, the Greek port was fourth in Europe, then Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg. Piraeus is the perfect hub on China’s BRI initiative: the natural deep-water port is the first major port in Europe where cargo ships sail after passing through the Suez Canal. A railway connection through the Balkans also starts from Piraeus, through which daily container trains arrive in Budapest and then on to Austria.”

According to HB, “since 2009 Chinese companies have invested more than five billion euros in Greeceamong others in wind farms, real estate and tourism projects. The state company State Grid Corporation owns a minority stake in ADMIE. In Greek politics, China is hardly ever discussed in a controversial way, even if unions in Piraeus criticize health lapses or workplace safety.

However, Brussels criticizes Greece’s heavy dependence on Chinese investments. The government in Athens avoids offending major donors from the Far East – something that became clear as early as 2017, when Greece refused to criticize China over human rights abuses there.”