2017 marks the year of Cultural Exchanges and Cultural Industry Cooperation between Greece and China, in an attempt to further enhance bilateral relations.
Attended by Liu Qibao, head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis, and representatives from the field of culture and media of both countries, the official inauguration ceremony, which took place in Athens, in April 27, was accompanied with the signing two memoranda of understanding, regarding:
a) Film co-productions and translations, and
b) Publishing of classic and modern Greek and Chinese literary works.
During her opening speech, Greek Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou welcomed the official launch of the year of cultural cooperation, noting that ‘the two ancient civilizations are meeting in the present. The past is a seed for the future and cultural heritage a source of inspiration.’
On his part, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli said that cultural exchanges are an integral part of Sino-Greek relations and play an important role in strengthening the relationship between China and Europe, as well as promoting dialogues between civilizations and mutual learning so as to advance world peace and growth.
INITIATIVES AND EVENTS
Aside from the aforementioned ceremony, the following initiatives and festive events are related to the Greece-China Cultural Year:
1) Ancient Civilizations Forum (ACF)
On April 24, a Ministerial Conference of ten countries was convened in Athens to officially establish the ‘Ancient Civilizations Forum,’ at the invitation of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
Aiming to develop a broad and multifaceted positive agenda of joint actions and synergies of the participating states, the conference also aspired to act as a cultural diplomacy initative and initiate a broader debate on the role of culture as a key driver of a modern and multidimensional foreign policy, further highlighting the international cultural cooperation as a factor for economic growth.
It is worth noting that, in their invitation, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and China stressed their common vision to utilize cultural heritage to promote friendly relations, international cooperation, peace, stability and prosperity: ‘It is a common conviction that the achievements of the past continuously gain in value, not when one rests on them, but when they are used to shape a better today and a more hopeful tomorrow.’
Prior to the ACF, a meeting was held between the two Foreign Ministers, followed by joint statements, where Mr Kotzias noted, inter alia, that ‘Our culture and our relations are based on soft power; on the fact that we are two countries who shaped the cultures of our regions. For thousands of years, China was the centre of the world in Southeast Asia and throughout Asia, and influenced the world. Greece was the Acropolis of the western world, and in particular of European civilization.
This year mark’s 45 years of Greek-Chinese diplomatic relations and the 11th year since the formation of a strategic partnership.’
2) Thessaloniki Int’l Fair (TIF) and Book Fair (TBF)
On February 13, TIF brought Greece and China closer today, sending a message of cooperation during the opening ceremony of the Chinese New Year celebrations at the South Gate of Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre. This ceremony marked the beginning of a number of events which will culminate this September, at the 82nd TIF, where China will be the honoured country.
President of TIF-Helexpo Mr Tassos Tzikas, stressed that ‘Greece and China are two great civilizations that illuminated the minds of the world. It is time to transform this historical relationship into an economic one,’ adding that Thessaloniki in particular served as a historical meeting place of the two civilizations as part of the ancient Silk Road.
On his part, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli reiterated that Thessaloniki was an important hub in the ancient Silk Road and left an indelible mark on the history of civilization and pointed out that China participated in the 1998 TIF as the first honoured country in the history of the institution, and would be returning in the same role at the 82nd TIF. Mr Xiaoli further stressed that TIF is an important gateway for the entry of Chinese merchandise into Europe and asserted that the 82nd TIF will attract an unprecedented number of local and international enterprises.
Moreover, a series of events entitled ‘Encounters on the Silk Roads’ were held during the TBF (May 11-14), aimed at promoting the similarities of the past and the need for strengthening the cultural relations between the Greece and China, by using the book as a bridge that connects two ancient civilizations.
3) ELIAMEP Asian Studies Programme
On March 14, ELIAMEP (Hellenic Institute for European and Foreign Policy) announced the launching of an Asian Studies Programme, coordinated by its Director General Dr Thanos Dokos and Dr George Tzogopoulos.
The principal objective of ELIAMEP Asian Studies Programme is to closely monitor developments in Asia, thus contributing to a better understanding of politics and international relations in Asia as well as to an assessment of the strategy of the important players. The main activities of the programme are the publication of relevant papers and the organisation of debates to facilitate public dialogue.
It should be noted that although this field of studies has not been particularly developed in Greece, ELIAMEP has already taken several steps, by means of organizing such events as: