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Spotlight: For Europeans, the only thing they have to fear about China's B&R Initiative is fear itself
From:Xinhua  |  2017-10-15 20:19

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by Zhai Wei, Tian Dongdong

BRUSSELS, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, used to tell his fellow countrymen at the height of the Great Depression that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Roosevelt's words can serve as an admonishment for some Europeans and western media who portrayed as if a monster the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative launched by China in 2013.

While projects connected with the Initiative has benefited foreign countries, including those in Europe, some expressed their bias against China in the pretext of national security concerns.

The fear was amplified by a story of New York Times in late August, which called China's investment in Greece as "a kind of neocolonialism without the gunboats".

But their accusation was refuted during the New Silk Road Forum held in Greece's second largest city of Thassaloniki in last September, during which senior representatives of news agencies along the route pointed out that Chinese investment in Europe is mutually beneficial and based on equal footing.

Organized by Greece's Athens News Agency (AMNA), national agency of the Mediterranean country, the forum focuses on the cooperation of countries as well as news media along the Belt and Road and aims at improving communication, facilitating trade and enhancing cultural ties.

Responding to the New York Times' story, Michalis Psylos, president of AMNA, told Xinhua that "nobody cares about the NYT report."

The Initiative "gives Greece the room and potential to upgrade its own role in the modern world as a member of the European Union," said the president in his opening remarks.

"We think the relationship between China and Greece is of strategic and geopolitical importance, and the news agencies in both countries wish to continue the promotion of the cooperation for it is mutually beneficial for the two countries and the two peoples," he told Xinhua.

The financial crisis broke out in 2008 brought Piraeus port, the largest one in Greece, at the brink of bankruptcy.

Fearing the investment in the harbor by China's COSCO SHIPPING would erase any prospect of revival, Yannis Lagoudakis, mayor of Greek municipality of Perama, was one of the locals who did not warmly welcome the change of hands at Piraeus port at first.

But he changed his mind sooner than expected.

When COSCO SHIPPING came here, Piraeus port was listed 93rd in the world ranking of cargo tonnage and now is 38th. Cargoes loaded and unloaded at the port totaled 3.74 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2016, up from 880,000 TEUs in 2010, when COSCO Shipping's subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal took over the management of Piers II and III.

COSCO SHIPPING, which also purchased the majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority last year, will help create 125,000 jobs in the region.

Lagoudakis told Xinhua that he is convinced that Sino-Greek collaboration at Piraeus port is promising and beneficial, and the revival of the Silk Road in this era of globalization will offer Greece the opportunity to become "a key hub between China and the rest of Europe."

"I believe that Greece's friendship with China can bring only positive results. I believe the Greek government is right when trying to deepen bilateral cooperation," he added.

B&R Helps Spain's Exports

Meanwhile, Miguel Sanchez, Spain's EFE Agency's director economic and financial sector, said during the Forum that "we are very happy to see in these days the growing number of Chinese companies in Spain because Chinese companies are offering more and more high-quality products."

The economic ties between Spain and China have been facilitated by the China-Europe freight train from Yiwu city in east China's Zhejiang province to Madrid, the capital city of Spain.

As one of the first outcomes of the Initiative, the important bridge of Eurasian connectivity would allow Spain to become a 'hub' for connections with North Africa and Latin America, said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last May in China.

Besides, the Initiative also improves Spain's trade balance with China, with a record of exports worth over 5 billion euros (about 5.47 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016 and an expected further growth, according to Rajoy.

Asked why smear campaign has been run against China's investment, Sanchez explained that China is "growing and becoming more and more competitive each day, the best way to fight against you is to say that you are doing nothing or doing things in the wrong way".

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

As of last May, over 60 countries and international organizations have signed agreements with China on Belt and Road cooperation. Total trade between China and other countries along the Belt and Road exceeded 3 trillion dollars between 2014 and 2016, and Chinese investment in these countries surpassed 50 billion dollars.

A multi-dimensional infrastructure network, that is underpinned by economic corridors featuring land-sea-air transportation routes and information expressways and supported by major rail, port and pipeline projects, is taking shape.

Chinese investment is not focused on one country, but is a boon to the economic development of countries in the South Europe, said Nenad Babic, executive officer of Serbia's TANJUG news agency.

"China invested in Serbia's biggest iron producer under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative. The construction of the railway connecting Serbia and Hungary will be done also with the financial help of Chinese banks. The railway will connect the south Europe with the Piraeus port in Greece which will facilitate the big trade in the whole region," he told Xinhua. Enditem

(Xinhua reporters Chen Zhanjie, Liu Yongqiu in Greece also contributed to the story.)