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June 6, 2022

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Dynamic new fields beckon as ties between Greek cities and Shanghai set to expand

Having spent two years in Beijing, where he was captivated by the Chinese capital’s rich architectural heritage, Vasileios Koniakos was not particularly excited at the prospect of working in Shanghai at first.

That was, of course, until the city grew on him as he discovered its many facets.

“Shanghai has something for everyone,” said Koniakos, who was appointed as the consul general of Greece in Shanghai in 2019.

The diplomat described the city as a charming mix of old and new.

Shanghai has long had sister-city ties with Athens and Piraeus, which has greatly facilitated cultural, educational and cross-border trade.

The annual China International Import Expo has played a significant role in promoting Greek products to the Chinese market.

One of the upcoming collaboration projects is the exhibition “Thalassa. The Sea in Greek Art from Antiquity to the Present,” Koniakos said. It is scheduled to open at the Shanghai Museum around mid-July.

This year, China and Greece are marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

“Culture fosters understanding, friendship and solidarity. It promotes diversity, creativity and communication,” Koniakos told Shanghai Daily in a recent interview.

He believes that Greece-China cultural relations are a major player in promoting bilateral cooperation.

The consul general’s interest in Chinese history and culture is reflected in his Confucius-influenced Chinese name Kong Nige 孔尼舸. He believes the Chinese philosopher compares very well with the Greek thinker and scholar, Socrates.

Q: When was your first trip to China?

A: My first trip to China was in 2014 when I was posted at the Greek embassy in Beijing. I was always attracted by the idea of immersing myself in the culture of a country with a long history and a great future, and one so influential on the course of humanity. Then I went back to Athens, but I was just unable to shake off my overwhelming desire to return to China and to the very heart of its economy and driver of growth and innovation, which is Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta region.

Q: How is life and work in Shanghai?

A: After living in Beijing, a city with a millennia-long history and landmark ancient monuments, I wasn’t blown away by Shanghai when I first arrived here in 2019. But Shanghai grew on me as I learned more about its past, came to appreciate the beauty of its period architecture and its juxtaposition with modern architectural marvels, and met and made friends among its open-minded inhabitants, who were always eager to interact with foreigners and explore new opportunities.

There is something for everyone in Shanghai. It has historically had a strong appeal to expats, and I am confident that once the city has triumphed over COVID-19, it will continue to do so in the future.

Q: Any recommendations for locals to experience the Greek lifestyle here in Shanghai?

A: Hellas House is the venue that best embodies the Greek lifestyle in Shanghai, offering a wide range of services ranging from traditional Greek cuisine to event planning in an authentic Greek setting.

Q: Greece and China are two of the oldest civilizations in the world. How would you describe their similarities?

A: Greece and China are two countries far away from each other in terms of geography but substantially close to each other in terms of cultural presence and creative interaction throughout the centuries. Greece and China are the heirs of civilizations that span millennia of continuous rich intellectual and artistic creation and are considered the cradles of Western and Eastern civilizations, respectively.

The cultural relations between Greece and China can be considered a significant competitive advantage of bilateral cooperation. Cultural relations provide a wide range of fields that promote mutually beneficial progress and encourage the creative dialogue of the two ancient civilizations.

Q: How many Greeks live and work in Shanghai? What work do they do?

A: There are about 200 Greeks who live and work in Shanghai and are an important link between Greece and China.

They work mainly in the shipping industry as well as in multinational companies, and some of them teach at universities. Moreover, two major Greek investments are based in Shanghai and in the wider area of jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Greece, namely the factory of Shanghai Hitec Plastics in Pudong, and the factory of Kleemann elevators in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province.

Q: This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Greece and China. What are the next steps in bilateral relations?

A: I strongly believe that the future of Greece-China relations has been built on solid foundations: the warm and sincere friendship between the Greek and the Chinese people, mutual respect, common understanding, and mutual benefit.

To this end, I think that relations between Greek cities and Shanghai can be consolidated and integrated into the plans for the future, so as to expand the relations in new fields.


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