Xi’s visit to Athens marked a breakthrough moment in China’s decades-long siege of Europe’s markets. A series of deals will raise its investment in Greece to around €2.5bn. More significantly, Xi expanded Beijing’s foothold in the strategic port of Piraeus, from whence a rising tide of Chinese imports flow into the EU.
By co-opting an EU and Nato member into his all-encompassing Belt and Road initiative and effectively hiring it as a bespoke “gateway to Europe”, Xi advanced China’s overall global ambitions. The demarche also highlights a bigger, possibly existential, challenge for the EU: how to avoid becoming the meat in the sandwich between a ravenous China and an increasingly unreliable, surly and hostile United States.