China media warn new Greek government over port

China media warn new Greek government over port

Alexis Tsipras. (Anadolu)

We are highly concerned about this."
Beijing (ANTARA News) - 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 Thursday.

The comments came after the newly-elected authorities in Athens said they would halt the privatisation of Greeces biggest port, which Chinas COSCO group has bid for, AFP reported.

"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 administrations 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.

Chinas giant COSCO group is among the bidders for Piraeus, one of Europes 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," Beijings commerce ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said 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 and interests of Chinese companies in Greece, including COSCO," he told reporters at a briefing.

Birthplace of Western civilisation

Greece is only the latest country in recent weeks to backpedal on plans for projects led by Chinese firms.

Sri Lankas newly-elected government said this month it would review a $1.4 billion port project with China Communications Construction Company that would give Beijing a firmer foothold in the region.

In November, Mexican authorities cancelled a $3.75 billion high-speed rail deal with a Chinese-Mexican consortium just days after it was awarded, amid questions over the legality and transparency of the bid process.

China Railway Construction, the Chinese state firm which led the bid, has said it plans to tender for the project again.

And, in Myanmar, rising opposition to Chinese investment has sparked street protests over alleged land grabs and environmental damage, with one woman gunned down in December when police opened fire on local residents protesting a Chinese-backed copper mine.

In 2012, protests against the huge $3.6-billion Chinese-backed Myitsone dam led President Thein Sein to suspend the project, sparking anger in Beijing.

Shen said Thursday that Chinese investment has "made due contributions to the economic development, job creation and tax revenue growth in Myanmar".

"The Chinese government encourages Chinese companies to continue to actively play such positive roles," Shen said.

Another Chinese newspaper blamed "inconsistent changes" to "political landscapes" for slowing Chinas economic expansion around the world after Tsipras Syriza party swept to power in Greek elections on Sunday.

"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 Peoples 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 ($269 billion) EU-IMF bailout. (*)