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Politics

A Tale of Two Civilizations Coming Together: Greece, China Ties

Greece and China, both having ancient and brilliant cultures that have had a profound impact on the world, are coming together to foster closer ties not just in business, but also in education. They are encouraging cultural exchanges and mutual learning, providing opportunities for students from both nations to study their respective histories and contemporary developments in university courses offered in their home countries.

According to a feature in China’s Xinhua news agency, the newly-established Center of Greek and Chinese Ancient Civilizations, in partnership with the Center of Chinese and Greek Ancient Civilizations at Southwest University in China, aims to facilitate academic exchanges and collaborative research efforts between scholars and students in both countries.

Partnering with the Center of Chinese and Greek Ancient Civilizations of the Southwest University in China, the newly-opened institute aims to promote bilateral exchanges of scholars and students to advance the study of the two civilizations, according to the report.

Professors from Greek universities who were involved in founding the new center said that a deeper exploration of Greek and Chinese civilizations, two of the most ancient ones, is important even today.

“We believe that in this fragmented world, where values are in crisis, it would be beneficial for all of us, not just for China and Greece, but for the whole world, to examine the legacy of these two great cultures and compare them,” said Stelios Virvidakis, president of the Steering Committee of the Center of Greek and Chinese Ancient Civilizations.

There have been high-level visits between the two countries, with Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Greece in 2019, where he visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Xi said the tour left him with a beautiful and memorable impression, and deepened his understanding of ancient Greek civilization. He said he felt the impact of history and further realized that China and Greece, as two ancient civilizations, have much in common, according to Xinhua.

Xi and then Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos jointly advocated for exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations. After the visit, the two sides began building centers dedicated to what the two leaders proposed.

CONFUCIUS SAY, SOCRATES SAID

Apostolis Dimitropoulos, the former General-Secretary of Higher Education at Greece’s Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, traveled to Qufu city in Shandong Province of China in 2019 to visit the birthplace of Confucius, according to the report. His visit made him realize the significance of starting a comparative study of the philosophies of the two countries when exploring the two ancient civilizations.

Confucianism has a great influence on eastern civilization, “while ancient Greece has saved the Western civilization. By studying the foundations of the two in a comparative perspective, I think we could understand more the foundations of the globe,” Dimitropoulos told Xinhua.

The initiative to build research centers brings together eight universities from Greece and China, building on eons of tradition of deep learning as a tool to understand humanity and civilization.

Recently, Xi replied to a letter from Virvidakis and four other Greek scholars, extending congratulations on the founding of the Center of Greek and Chinese Ancient Civilizations. “I am very happy, honored, and moved that the Chinese president has responded to our letter and has pledged to support and sustain our joint efforts of the two centers, the center in Greece and the center in China,” said Virvidakis, also the Professor Emeritus of Philosophy of the NKUA.

Nikos Kazantzakis, a giant of modern Greek literature who had visited China twice, said that “Confucius and Socrates were two masks that covered the same face of human logic.”

“The partnership between China and Greece will have a very different character from now on,” said Pavlos Kontos, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Patras, noting that the Southwest University in China and the school will jointly launch a master’s program which will begin in September.

“It is on Chinese and Greek civilizations, and it is the first one worldwide that introduces a comparative approach to these two civilizations,” Kontos said.

“We believe that if people from different cultures get together and exchange ideas, this will benefit the whole world. If two big cultures, like Chinese and Greek cultures, get together and exchange ideas, then the hope is that people from other traditions may join,” Virvidakis said.

“China and Greece have shown the way for this convergence of people and developing new solutions,” he added.

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