|Thank You Hellas!|
H. E. Mr. Antonis Samaras, Honorable Deputy Minister for Economy and Development,Mr.Stergios Pitsiorlas, Distinguished MPs, Mayors, Dear friends, Good evening! Καλησπέρα σας!
I would like to welcome you all to the official donation ceremony of a collection of Chinese theatrical costumes co-hosted by the Chinese Embassy in the Hellenic Republic and the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation. These 28 delicate Chinese theatrical costumes have been gifted by Chinese delegations visiting Greece in recent years. They've been exhibited in several important cultural events and are our cherished treasure. Today, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Greece, I would like to donate this collection to the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation and I am positive that it will be preserved with good care and be put to good use to continue its active role in promoting bilateral cultural exchanges and the friendship between our two peoples.
Next month, my tenure as Chinese Ambassador to Greece will be coming to an end, and I will return to my homeland with my wife. Please allow me to take this opportunity to deliver a farewell speech for my Greek friends in the cultural sector.
I assumed my duty on January 8, 2014, so I have been working in Greece for four years and five months, which makes me the longest-serving Chinese ambassador to Greece. During a period of numerous challenges, thanks to the concerted efforts of our two Governments and peoples, we have recorded great accomplishments. Therefore, as the Ambassador of China, an ancient civilization in the East, I would like to thank Greece, another ancient civilization in the West, which also enjoys a long history and a splendid culture, for all the precious memories I will be taking home with me both as a diplomat and as a person. It has been an honor I will never forget.
In ancient Olympia, I was invited to attend the Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremonies for the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Summer Olympic Games and the Pyongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. In Marathon, I had the honor of firing the starting pistol for the Athens Authentic Marathon. In Pnyka at the foot of Acropolis, I was surrounded by the applause of European politicians for Ancient Greek civilization. In the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, I shared the enthusiasm and passion of the performing Chinese musicians. In the theater of Epidaurus, I was fascinated by the charm of ancient Greek tragedy. In Kos, I collected a piece of leaf from the Tree of Hippocrates. When I set foot on the islands of Milos and Samothrace, I thought I heard the heartbeats of goddesses Aphrodite and Nike coming from the distant the Louvre Museum. In Mykonos, I indulged myself in the archaeological site of Delos, which is more ancient and impressive than that of Pompeii in Italy.
These unique experiences brought to life the Ancient Greece I learned about only from the history textbooks decades ago, and revealed a Greece that is so vibrant, lively and glamorous. I was astonished by the vitality of the Ancient Greek civilization that remains so splendid after thousands of years. Early on the Romans recognized Ancient Greece's cultural superiority: Horace, one of the greatest Latin poets, wondered what else on earth would be able to equally withstand the test of time, what do we posses are able to keep repeating itself? These questions are still relevant today and give us food for thought.
In recent years, bilateral people-to-people exchanges have been lifted to new heights thanks to our concerted efforts and have yielded fruitful results. At the beginning of 2014, President Xi Jinping and President Karolos Papoulias reached a consensus for the mutual establishment of cultural centers. In June the same year, Premier Li Keqiang visited Greece, during which the documents for the creation of the cultural centers were signed. This year, the China Cultural Center in Athens will be officially launched and will serve as an important platform for cultural exchanges. Our two countries declared 2015 of Year China-Greece Maritime Cooperation, which is the first of its kind in the world; during its course the two sides held the Maritime Civilization Dialogue, Maritime Tourism Seminar, International Island Art Festival, while visits were exchanged between our two Underwater Archaeology Departments. Following an invitation from the Greek side, China sent for the first time a delegation to the European Maritime Day. From then on, cross-cultural dialogue and bilateral people-to-people exchanges expanded from land to sea, helping promote the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Since the launch of Greece-China 2017, Year of Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation of Creative Industries in April 2017, the Forbidden City Museum, the Capital Museum, the Shanghai Museum, and the China Science and Technology Museum, from the Chinese side, and the National Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis Museum, the Asian Art Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the Herakleidon Museum, among others from the Greek side, have developed close cooperation and planned a number of important exhibitions. Institutions and groups from the two countries in the fields of the performing arts, film and television, publishing, fine arts, and literature have provided our peoples with a steady flow of feasts of art and culture.
I would also like to stress that local governments and non-governmental institutions have been playing an increasingly central role in our cultural exchanges. Last year, Ms. Sofia Staïkou, chairperson of Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation, visited the China National Silk Museum in my home town of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and introduced China to the history of Greek Silk and the Silk Museum in Soufli, which marked the start of a new phase in our cultural exchanges with silk as a medium. Early this month, the city of Beijing signed agreements for cooperation in television and film with the Municipalities of Athens, Marathon, Kos and Mykonos. Over the past four years, the "Aeschyleia International Drama Festival" in Elefsina, the hometown of Aeschylus, the "Father of Tragedy", has been consistently attracting troupes from the Chinese Peking Opera, the Yue Opera, the Ping Opera, the Huangmei Opera. In recent years, China has been an active participant in Lefkada's International College Art Festival. Last month, the Marathon Municipality, together with the Hellenic Amateur Athletics Federation (SEGAS), the Chinese Track and Field Association, and the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), successfully organized the first Marathon Forum in the city of Marathon, another highlight in our cultural exchanges.
Here, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Greek Government and people from all walks of life for your attention, support, and participation in the cultural exchanges with China. On May 5, 2014, I was the only non-EU country ambassador invited to speak at the press conference on the reconstruction of the Greek cultural foundation at the Acropolis Museum. On March 28, 2016, the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek Cities held its founding ceremony at the Acropolis Museum. Once more, I was the sole non-EU country ambassador invited to attend and deliver a speech. You enabled me to experience the warmth and friendship the Greek people feel towards the Chinese people, your respect and love for the Chinese culture, and the greatness and splendor of our mission. The friendship and mutual trust between our two peoples are the foundation and a source of strength on which both sides can rely to overcome all difficulties and challenges.
Over the years, the international community has paid increasing attention to the development of Sino-Hellenic relations, especially to the investments of COSCO Shipping Group in Piraeus. A journalist from a Western media organization once asked me: What is China's secret weapon for its success in Greece? I replied that we have no secrets, let alone weapons, but only a bicycle. Its front wheel is cultural exchanges, and its rear wheel is pragmatic cooperation. Sino-Hellenic cultural exchanges are founded on the shared values of mutual respect, equality, inclusiveness and mutual learning. This ensures that our pragmatic cooperation has been proceeding along a path defined by mutual benefit, win-win results, and openness. The Piraeus Port project and our cooperation in the sectors of transportation, energy, telecommunications, and finance will not only benefit the two countries and their peoples but will also help the economic recovery of Europe and the growth of the global economy. In fact, many countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Central Asia have welcomed strengthened cooperation between China and Greece and are looking forward to participating in it. This is a vote of confidence in the two ancient civilizations of the East and the West. History has chosen China and Greece to work together so as to build an anchor of peace and prosperity at the crossroads of Asian, European, and African civilizations. The cultural and social significance of this mission is so much greater and longer lasting than economic interests.
As history teaches, modern European civilization carries within it the cultural DNA of Ancient Greece. Today, Greece, as an important member of the European Union, adheres to and promotes the values of openness, diversification, and peace. I have always believed that it is almost impossible to truly understand the present and past of the EU and Europe, or of the rest of the Western world for that matter, without understanding Greece. For a long time, Greece has played an important role in promoting dialogue and understanding between China and Europe. China had entered into a comprehensive strategic partnership with Greece long before the Port of Piraeus Project. At present, Sino-Hellenic dialogue and cultural exchanges have a deeper, wider and more intense impact on the world. China highly appreciates the fact that Greece has firmly and through tangible actions supported the "Belt and Road" Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping. The Chinese side also actively supports and participates in the "Ancient Civilizations Forum" that was initiated by Greece. Against a backdrop of profound and complex changes in the international landscape, China and Greece have not forgotten their historical responsibility and mission as two ancient civilizations and have spared no effort in working together with all nations to promote global cross-cultural dialogue and exchanges. This is because we believe that only openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win cooperation can bring development and progress to our countries, make our people respect and help each other, ensure peace and tranquility in the world, and bring the promise of a bright future to humankind.
Although my diplomatic mission in Greece is about to end, I can with great satisfaction claim that Sino-Hellenic relations are at a new and higher starting point. My only regret is that there are still so many Greek historical and cultural monuments that I have not had time to visit. For example, of the nine thematic museums of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation, I have only visited three; I have not had the chance to meet and talk to people from all walks of life in Greece who had written to or called me. There are yet many dreams to be realized. What's past is prologue. In the future, no matter where I am, I will continue to pay attention to and support Sino-Hellenic cultural exchanges and the friendly cooperation between China and Greece, for the development of China-Greece ties is a powerful reminder that different countries can and do indeed help each other to prosper while following their own path to development. This is also in line with the goal of building a "Community of Shared Future for Mankind", ushering in a broad and bright future and will exert ever-expanding influence at the international level. So, to conclude my speech, instead of "goodbye", I would sum up the thousands of words in my mind by saying: "Thank you, Hellas! I will come back!"