DIPLOMACY

Chinese media warns new Greek government over plan to halt sale of Piraeus port

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 January, 2015, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 January, 2015, 4:22pm

New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is in a similar position to Phaeton, the Greek mythological figure given the reins of the sun only to lose control and nearly destroy the earth, Chinese media said on Thursday.

The comments came after the newly elected authorities in Athens said they would halt the privatisation of Greece’s biggest port, which China’s Cosco group has bid for.

“This is reminiscent of a tale in Greek mythology,” said an analysis in The Paper, a government-run new media venture.

In the myth – with its message that those unfit for power should not aspire to office beyond their abilities – Zeus kills Phaeton with a thunderbolt to save humanity.

Tsipras’ “national salvation” government said it was putting on hold the previous administration’s plans to sell a majority stake in the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, and would also halt the privatisation of the top electricity and petroleum companies.

China’s giant Cosco group is among the bidders for Piraeus, one of Europe’s busiest ports, and the review has unnerved some in the Chinese government.

Cosco already has a 35-year concession to expand the two main container terminals at the port, and both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang visited Greece last year.

“We are highly concerned about this,” Beijing’s commerce ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said on Thursday.

“The commerce ministry will closely follow the making of relevant policies of the new government in Greece, keep communicating with the government and urge the Greek government to protect the legal rights of interests of Chinese companies in Greece, including Cosco,” he told reporters at a briefing.

Tsipras’ Syriza party swept to power in elections on Sunday and other Chinese media outlets blamed “inconsistent changes” to “political landscapes” for slowing China’s economic expansion around the world.

“Without a robust system to guarantee political stability, administrative management in these countries is easily jeopardised by leadership changes,” Liu Zhun wrote in an op-ed for the Global Times, which is affiliated with the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily.

Greece, Liu added, had “totally forgotten that it is the birthplace of Western civilisation, which values the spirit of a contract the most”.

Syriza has promised to reverse many of the reforms implemented by the previous conservative government, including a host of privatisations.

The previous administration of Antonis Samaras had backed the reforms as part of the conditions of a 240-billion-euro (HK$2.1 trillion) EU-IMF bailout.