Cablegate: Greece/China: Greeks See Prc As More "Aggressive"

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/03/2018


1. (C) SUMMARY: Chinese Embassy and Greek MFA readouts
painted very different pictures of Chinese President Hu's
recent visit to Athens. The Chinese saw the visit as
fulfilling three goals: repaying Greece for President
Papoulias' visit during the Olympics; cementing the
Chinese-Greece "comprehensive strategic partnership"; and
expanding economic cooperation, including the signing of an
agreement for a 35-year concession for the Chinese company
COSCO to run the container terminal at the Piraeus port. The
Greek MFA took a less benign view of the visit, which the GOG
believed had been "imposed" on them by the increasingly
"aggressive" Chinese, who insisted on Greek support for
China's positions on key issues but did not reciprocate with
support for the Greek position on such issues as the
Macedonia name dispute. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) People's Republic of China President Hu Jintao paid a
state visit to Greece November 24-26. This was the first
visit to Greece by a PRC Head of State since 2000. Greek
President Papoulias had visited China in June; PM Karamanlis
last visited China in 2006. During the Athens visit, Hu met
with Papoulias, Karamanlis, and the heads of the main
opposition PASOK party and the Communist Party of Greece


3. (C) In a readout for us of the visit, Chinese Embassy
Political Counselor Liu Wei said the Chinese had three goals.
The first was to repay Greece for the visit of President
Papoulias to China and the support Greece had shown to China
with the Olympics. Wei said it was important to the "Chinese
mentality" to show gratitude. On this score, he also
mentioned China's gratitude to President Bush for his support
of the Olympics.

4. (C) The second goal was renewal of Greek-Chinese
friendship. Wei said Greece and China were not allies, as
Greece and the U.S. were -- China did not make such alliances
with foreign governments. But Greece and China were
"comprehensive strategic partners," as established in their
2006 agreement. Wei defined precisely what that meant:
"comprehensive" referred to the fact that China and Greece
would agree on issues across the board and not cherry pick
when it was convenient. Their partnership at the same time
was "strategic" because it focused on the global context and
was long-term, not simply a marriage of convenience for the
present. Wei said Greece was the "most adamant" supporter of
the one-China policy in the EU, and China was a strong
supporter of the reunification of Cyprus. Such a convergence
of views, he argued, made Greece and China "natural
partners." Greece was one of China's strongest advocates in
the EU, and the Chinese President promised during the visit
that China would never do anything to harm Greece.

5. (C) Expanding "pragmatic cooperation," that is, economic
and business interaction, was the third Chinese goal. Wei
indicated China wanted to "go global" but had had problems in
securing a foothold in Western countries due to mistrust.
Such mistrust did not exist in Greece, according to Wei, and
increasing economic ties between China and Greece was an
important step for China. Wei said that half of Chinese
exports were carried on Greek-owned vessels, while 60 percent
of China's oil imports arrived on Greek ships.

6. (C) During the visit, PM Karamanlis signed an agreement
granting the Chinese firm COSCO Pacific Ltd a 35-year
concession on the container terminal at the port of Piraeus.
Under the agreement, which China was awarded in June and
which represented the largest-ever such deal with a foreign
power to control such an important aspect of the Greek
economy, COSCO would pay 4.3 billion euro over 35 years and
would renovate one pier and build another. Wei admitted that
the Chinese saw some difficulties in managing the Piraeus
operation, due both to the global economic downturn and to
Greek labor unrest. Greek dock workers continued to strike
at the prospect of job or salary cuts under Chinese
management, though Wei said China intended to have only one
Chinese national running the container operation with an
otherwise entirely Greek staff. Additionally, four other
minor agreements were signed, including two removing
obstacles to Greek agricultural imports to China (Wei said
Greek agricultural imports were quite expensive compared to
domestic Chinese products but were nevertheless necessary in
the production of high-quality goods for export.) Other
agreements covered cooperation between the Hellenic
Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and the Chinese
microchip supplier HUAWEI, and the sharing of programming

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between Chinese television CCTV and the Greek State-owned
television ERT.

7. (C) Finally, when asked about potential military sales,
Wei said there had been no such discussion during the visit.
(NOTE: Greece has often helped cement deals or agreements in
other areas through military equipment purchases. For
example, at the same time that Greece was sealing the
Southstream gas pipeline deal with Russia, it also agreed to
purchase more than a billion dollars worth of Russian armored
personnel carriers (BMPs). END NOTE.) China was "very
prudent" in arms sales and did not want to upset the balance
between Greece and Turkey. "Do no harm" was China's first
rule in arms sales.


8. (C) The Greek readout, provided by MFA A10 Directorate for
Asia and Oceania deputy head Adam Adamidis, while covering
the same basic territory as Wei's readout, was less positive
and more cynical. Adamidis said the Chinese had "imposed"
the visit on Greece, providing only a month's notice, which
forced Greece to cancel or delay some other high-level
meetings, such as the visit of the Cypriot President. This
was in contrast to Papoulias' visit to China in June, for
which the Chinese had required a year's preparation. It was
not clear why the Chinese had forced their President on the
Greeks at short notice, though apparently they wanted to
conclude the COSCO port concession agreement as quickly as
possible. Adamidis said the COSCO agreement had been stuck
in the Greek bureaucracy for some time, but the visit had
forced it out.

9. (C) During the visit, President Papoulias discussed most
of the political topics, while PM Karamanlis confined himself
to economic matters. The COSCO concession, Adamidis said,
had been Karamanlis' idea. (NOTE: Press reports early on
indicated that the Piraeus port concession was to be done by
an open and fair competition, though as it developed politics
may have played an increasingly significant role. END NOTE.)
Adamidis took exception to the Chinese interpretation of the
"comprehensive strategic partnership," saying that while
Greece and China agreed on many things now, that certainly
did not mean they would agree forever or on everything. At
the same time, however, he conceded that Greece was in a
"subordinate position," due to its very large trade deficit
with China: 12 billion euro, plus Chinese shipyards were
building 20 billion euro worth of Greek ships. Greece
accordingly generally supported positions of importance to
the Chinese. Adamidis noted Greek support for China's
receiving Market Economy Status in the world of trade and for
lifting the EU arms embargo. Also, unlike most other EU
countries, Greece did not have an office in Taiwan, and
Greece kept a low profile on human rights issues in China,
for which the PRC was grateful.

10. (C) The Greeks clearly did not believe this show of
support for China was reciprocated. Adamidis noted President
Papoulias' discussion with Hu on the Macedonia name issue.
He said Papoulias had told President Hu, "We support you on
Taiwan, Tibet, and Market Economy Status, but we need your
support on FYROM." Papoulias went on to note that Greece had
been "furious" at China for being the first member of the UN
Security Council to recognize "FYROM" by its constitutional
name (1993). The Chinese reply was "We are going to accept
any decision by the two parties for a mutually acceptable
solution." The Chinese President had also warned Papoulias
that if the Dalai Lama were permitted to visit Greece, it
would have a "severe impact" on bilateral relations. Adding
to this list, Adamidis mentioned with some disfavor as well
that in the runup to the Olympics in China, the Chinese had
agreed to have Greece help with security at the games but as
the event approach, "they dumped us."

11. (C) Summing up, Adamidis said the Chinese had become much
more "aggressive" of late. A few years ago, they treated
Greece with more respect, but now they sought to impose their
wishes on Greece.

12. (C) COMMENT: Due to its subordinate economic position
stemming from its trade deficit and outstanding ship-building
contracts with the Chinese, Greece apparently feels compelled
to support Chinese positions on a range of international
issues. But Greece evidently is not getting what it thinks
it deserves in return, and the Greeks do not appear happy
with the relationship. PM Karamanlis may be trying to turn
this situation around with the concession to COSCO on the
Piraeus container port -- assuming that the MFA report is
true that he and not a competitive bidding process was
ultimately responsible for the Chinese getting the

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concession. As is the case with Russia, the GOG appears
willing to make concessions on current business deals to
secure a better position later. But whether such a strategy
will work -- either with China or with Russia -- may not be
clear for some time.


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