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  • On this episode of China Uncensored,

  • how the Chinese Communist Party is infiltrating Greece.

  • Hi, welcome to China Uncensored.

  • I'm Chris Chappell.

  • What do you when you're burdened by debt

  • and on the verge of bankruptcy?

  • You move back into your parents' basement.

  • Or if you're a country, you ask China for help.

  • And that's exactly what Greece is doing.

  • But when you're feeling desperate,

  • do you really make the wisest choices?

  • Shelley Zhang reports from Athens.

  • Thanks, Chris.

  • Greece.

  • The cradle of Western civilization.

  • Home of gorgeous islands,

  • big fat weddings,

  • and a pantheon of gods

  • straight out of a daytime soap opera.

  • And also the worst government debt crisis

  • in any developed country.

  • One that led to 13 rounds of spending cuts,

  • a new government,

  • and 30,000 euros of debt for every Greek citizen.

  • Greece needed a hero.

  • And an unlikely one emerged to save the day...

  • sort of:

  • the Chinese Communist Party.

  • For decades,

  • the Party has wanted to get

  • a political foothold in Europe.

  • But it's been difficult because of

  • the European Union's powerful influence.

  • But in late 2009,

  • Greek entered an era best described as

  • Holy Zeus, we have no more money.”

  • It became clear the Greece might not be able to pay back

  • those billions of dollars it had borrowed from the rest of the EU.

  • So it was basically a situation where,

  • after the Greek financial crisis,

  • nobody wanted to swipe right on Greece anymore.”

  • Nobody wanted to lend money

  • to the Greek government anymore.”

  • John Psaropolous is an independent journalist

  • who has covered Greece for two decades.

  • He says that as the EU backed off from Greece,

  • China started to move in.

  • Think of it as a friendship within the generation of people

  • who go back at least 3,000 years.”

  • Mmmm. Yes. Let's be friends,

  • becauseWe have so much in common, babe!”

  • Like we haven't heard that one before,

  • am I right, ladies?

  • The CCP's courtship started in about 2009.

  • But it got serious in 2015,

  • after the Greeks elected Alexis Tsipras as Prime Minister.

  • At first the CCP was concerned,

  • because Tsipras's party was radical leftist.

  • They were afraid Greece might not be

  • open to Chinese investment anymore.

  • And the CCP knows better than anyone:

  • never trust a communist.

  • But it turned out there was mutual affection.

  • Tsipras was very interested in Chinese investment.

  • Hey, Just because we're both communist

  • doesn't mean we can't make a little profit, right?

  • Prime Minister Tsipras immediately bent over backwards

  • to be friends with China.

  • Just 24 days after taking office,

  • Tsipras welcomed a Chinese warship to the Greek port of Piraeus.

  • He told Chinese officials that he wants Greece

  • toserve as China's gateway into Europe.”

  • Tsipras even flew to China twice.

  • Once in 2016, and then again in 2017.

  • I know it looks like the same trip.

  • But Tsipras only owns one nice outfit, ok?

  • Greece is short on cash.

  • Behind me is Piraeus Port,

  • just outside Athens.

  • It's the largest port in Greece,

  • and one of the largest in the Mediterranean.

  • In 2016, the Greek government allowed

  • Chinese state-owned shipping giant COSCO

  • o buy a 51% stake here

  • for 330 million dollars.

  • Within 5 years, they will own 67%.

  • COSCO had already been renting part of the port since 2008.

  • Now, they effectively own it.

  • The Chinese government is building Piraeus into a key gateway

  • to move Chinese products into the rest of Europe.

  • They call it a “dragon head

  • for the One Belt, One Road Initiative,

  • the series of massive infrastructure projects

  • that aims to export Chinese goods around the world.

  • I visited the dockworkers union,

  • and sat down with Giorgos Gogos.

  • They took the management of a very profitable organization

  • in a very strategic place in Mediterranean Sea

  • for a very low price.”

  • Yes, Chinese people know a good deal when they see one.

  • But Mr. Gogos is concerned that letting

  • a Chinese company take over the Greek port

  • was maybe not such a great idea.

  • Sure, things are a lot more efficient,

  • from COSCO's perspective.

  • They've cut salaries dramatically,

  • and moved a lot of full-time workers

  • to being on-call.

  • But the work is more demanding,

  • with less job security.

  • “I think it's a big mistake from European Union

  • and the Americans that are leaving space

  • for Chinese companies to enter.

  • But we are too small to deal with these things.

  • Even Captain Fu Cheng Qiu

  • the Chinese guy who runs the port

  • admitted that selling Piraeus Port to COSCO

  • maybe wasn't such a smart move on Greece's part.

  • He said that in China,

  • we wouldn't privatize such a port,

  • because it's a big asset.

  • But Chinese investment doesn't stop at the port.

  • COSCO has opened the door.

  • It's a state owned company,

  • it has deep pockets,

  • it has a close relationship with the government.

  • That signals to other Chinese companies

  • that if their investment does well,

  • Greece is ok to invest in.”

  • In December last year,

  • China bought a 24% stake

  • in Greece's public power grid operator.

  • While Prime Minister Tsipras was in Beijing in May 2017,

  • he signed an agreement with a Chinese firm

  • that will invest half a billion dollars over seven years

  • to build a fiber optic telecommunications network in Greece.

  • And in September,

  • Greece honored China

  • at the Thessaloniki International Fair.

  • 6,000 square feet of pavilion space

  • was dedicated to Chinese companies.

  • From an economic standpoint,

  • the relationship between Greece and China

  • over the last few years

  • has been mostly positive.

  • Who doesn't love cheap handbags...

  • made in China?

  • And millenia of Greek history...

  • made in China?

  • Even Mr. Gogos's union,

  • which has had issues with COSCO in the past,

  • is willing to work with the Chinese,

  • as long as they are willing to adapt.

  • “I think now if they want to have a better face in Greek society

  • they have to respect certain things,

  • and among these things are labor relations,

  • environmental issues,

  • and national sovereignty of the country.”

  • So could this become a friendship

  • that's mutually respectful and beneficial?

  • Well, like every friends with benefits relationship,

  • it eventually gets complicated.

  • Well, the political ramifications

  • of China's investments in Europe

  • remain to be seen.

  • At the moment it's just business.

  • But business is never just business, forever,

  • particular when it is state-condoned.”

  • There's growing concern in Europe

  • over Greece's relationship with China.

  • It's kind of like watching your best friend

  • start dating this guy.

  • Let's just say,

  • the CCP might not be the best influence.

  • For example, in July 2016,

  • Greece was one of only two EU countries

  • that sided with the CCP

  • after a controversial South China Sea court ruling.

  • And in June 2017,

  • Greece stopped the EU from condemning

  • the CCP's human rights abuses,

  • and then opposed the EU doing tougher screenings

  • of Chinese investments in Europe.

  • There is a European concern now about

  • what the pattern of Chinese investment is going to be,

  • how much power Chinese investment will have taken

  • as a whole, as a sum.

  • Ironically, it was the EU

  • that had forced Greece to privatize

  • to sell off some of their state-owned assets

  • as part of their debt repayment.

  • But now that the buyer is the CCP,

  • the EU is having seller's remorse.

  • China isn't just investing in Greece,

  • but in many Eastern European countries as well.

  • And that's causing enough alarm for the EU

  • to take a closer look at these deals.

  • Meanwhile Greece is still a little upset at the EU, s

  • o they're not exactly taking the EU's warnings seriously.

  • “I don't think the Greeks are afraid of

  • too much Chinese influence at the moment...

  • They're happy to have a country,

  • a major country,

  • an up-and-coming superpower in the world

  • that is interested in them

  • and sees Greece as a promising place.”

  • Yeah. It's always nice to be liked.”

  • It's always nice to be liked,

  • particularly when your old friends have dumped you

  • or criticized you severely.

  • And the Chinese have seen that opportunity.

  • They've seen the changing psychology in Greece

  • and that isn't lost on them.”

  • Look, I understand;

  • it's been a tough few years.

  • You've lost a lot of jobs.

  • You're going through a big recession.

  • You've gained a few million extra pounds... of debt.

  • And here comes this exciting new guy.

  • He definitely wants a strategic investment partner

  • with benefits kind of relationship.

  • And you have a lot in common.

  • Like, you're both ancient civilizations.

  • And everything's going fine.

  • He doesn't care about your bad reputation.

  • He's showering you with investments.

  • And ok, your friends are trying to warn you

  • about this guy,

  • but they don't know him like you do.

  • And no, he didn't ask you to stop them

  • from pointing out his human rights problems.

  • That's just what you do when you're in a relationship, right?

  • Look, I'm not telling you to break up with him.

  • That's your business.

  • I'm just saying, you're like 3,000 years old.

  • It's time to pull yourself together.

  • You gotta figure out if this is

  • the kind of relationship you really want.

  • Just think about it, ok?

  • Or, not.

  • Thanks, Shelley for taking time out of your vacation

  • to do this story.

  • Looks like you had a really marbleous time.

  • Haha, I just crack myself up.

  • So what do you think of Greece's relationship with China?

  • Friends with benefits?

  • Or something more?

  • Let me know in the comments below.

  • Thanks again for watching this episode of China Uncensored,

  • once again I'm your host Chris Chappell,

  • see you next time.

  • Thanks for watching.

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  • I mean, we could ask COSCO to fund this.

  • But then we've have to give them 51% of Chris.

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On this episode of China Uncensored,