Andreas Potamianos, President of the Greece-China Association, hailed China’s development in the past decades as “tremendous.”

Potamianos, 86, a decades-long leading player in Greek shipping, said that when he first visited China in the 1980s, he foresaw that something significant would take place in the Asian country when there was, at that time, sparse automobile-traffic in cities.

Potamianos said he was extremely impressed by the discipline of the Chinese people, a trait which he believed would help carry the nation forward.

Commenting on China’s development in the past decades, he said:

“I think the development is tremendous in every field. I think China will do very well in the future”

From his own experience: “I find what they did in shipping is fantastic.”

China is “able to build large shipyards and not only build on the sea, but build them in the river, even build ships on the mountain and then take them down to the sea into (ship)yards,” he said.

“I think what they did is incredible and they are still working very hard,” he said in the recent interview.

Potamianos has been at the helm of the Greece-China Association since 1987. He was among the first Greek business leaders who discovered a promising China decades ago when most Europeans were blind to China’s potential. The Greece-China Association that was established in 1956 is the first of its kind in Europe.

Cultural exchanges with China expanded in 1980s and further in 1990s. “Since then we made a lot of steps, mainly trying to educate young people to (know better about) China,” said Potamianos, who expressed a strong belief in people-to-people exchanges as a bridge in promoting country-to-country relations.

For instance, the association is long committed to helping Greek and Chinese youth learn each other’s language, and have arranged study tours to China for Greek students in summers.

“Now Greece feels very close to the Chinese. We gladly have here the COSCO Port opened and they are doing a wonderful job,” he said, referring to the profitable operation by Chinese company of the largest Greek Port of Piraeus, which is an extensively-lauded example of collaboration.

China COSCO Shipping acquired 67 percent stake of Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (PPA S.A.) in 2016 after an international tender as part of Greece’s privatisation program to help get rid of a national debt crisis.

Potamianos’s office overlooks the Piraeus Port and he has closely followed the developments there.

Potamianos has witnessed the Port’s transformation into a modern, key transit hub for passenger vessels and cargos as well as a major gate for Chinese products to enter Europe. The achievement made under the framework of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) benefits both sides.

Beyond Piraeus, Greece-China cooperation has expanded in many sectors in recent years, but there is much more ahead to reach, he said.

“I think that there is a lot of potential with China and Greece working together. We have to work together with Chinese entrepreneurs to create something, to create factories or products,” he said.

In his eyes, tourism is another priority in bilateral cooperation.

The Greece-China Association wants to take Chinese visitors to more places beyond the well-known Mykonos and Santorini Islands. To help them to see the true Greece and “to learn the people,” he said, “That is what we are trying to do.”