From the sea, the cobalt-blue gantry cranes and mosaic of multicolored containers are a magnet for the monster cargo ships steaming into the harbor. For Cosco, the Chinese state-owned company listed in Hong Kong, Piraeus is the point at which China nudges into Europe as part of its plan to create a modern commercial empire pumping Chinese goods throughout the continent. But as China pumps money into creating President Xi Jinping's vision of the Belt and Road Initiative, a modern-day Silk Road to Europe, it has bumped into a modern fiscal odyssey in Greece, the eurozone's most troubled nation, where foreign investment has slumped and stalled amid political turmoil and concerns of financial collapse.
The sale of the port has been delayed twice in just the past few months after being formally launched in March 2014, years after being included in the Greek state asset sales plan mandated by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in return for what became 240 billion euros ($260 billion) in rescue funds. For Greece, the stakes are higher now than they were six years ago, when the country's fiscal mess sparked a crisis that led to bailouts for countries including Ireland and Portugal, and called the existence of the common currency into question. Alexis Tsipras came to power in January as the firebrand young prime minister who opposed state asset sales and vowed to tear up the two bailout agreements that forced higher taxes and cuts in wages and pensions. Fosun, China's largest private conglomerate, is one of the investors in a group destined to develop the Hellinikon site, the Greek capital's former airport and Olympic Games venue, a project that could create 70,000 jobs and add 2 percent to Greece's economic output. Such a transformation of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, the second-largest harbor, which is also for sale, could add 9,000 new jobs over 10 years and about 1.3 billion euros in annual gross value added, McKinsey said. On the road to the headquarters of Cosco's Greek unit, Piraeus Container Terminal SA, graffiti urges Cosco to leave and for Piraeus Port to remain in workers' hands. Cosco has seen five separate Greek premiers, not including caretakers, since it won the license to operate Pier II in 2008 for 30 years at a cost of 490 million euros.
For Tassos Vamvakidis, a Greek who has been the commercial manager for the Cosco unit since it first got its Piraeus concession, actions speak louder than words. For China, says Lane of Container Transport International Consultancy, the Silk Road is less a single carriageway, with a start and an endpoint, than a web of solid infrastructure that facilitates multiple supply chains to and from China, part of an overall supply chain jigsaw puzzle. Shannon, an Irish town with a population of about 10,000, seems like a magnet for Chinese leaders, with visits in the past two decades from two presidents and three premiers. Shannon's close ties with China and the town's penchant for practical solutions to problems were further illustrated when Xi, then vice-president, led a delegation of about 150 Chinese business executives there in 2012.
During Xi's three-day visit, he attended a traditional banquet at Bunratty Castle, run by Shannon Heritage, the largest visitor attraction company in Ireland. Shannon's links with China deepened further when Premier Li arrived in Shannon for a two-day visit to Ireland before his Latin America trip in May.
Edmond admits that the passenger numbers from China are relatively low but says they are looking for creative solutions. Shannon Airport has been thinking of applying similar solutions for cargo to speed up the process, Edmond says, adding that with trade flows increasing between China and Europe, it could be a possibility. The 10 biggest international aviation companies have operations in Ireland, which is regarded as the best place to engage in the aircraft leasing business, he says. Ireland allows companies to deduct 12.5 percent income tax annually for the first eight years, he says, adding that some Asian countries are attempting to emulate Ireland to attract leasing companies.
Last year, Trinity announced the launch of a master's program in Chinese studies and the opening of the Trinity Centre for Asian Studies. Jan O'Sullivan, the Irish minister for education and skills, says the move is an "important development in promoting partnerships with China". The latest draft is "open and balanced", which is "a starting point" for further discussion, Xie says, but more "landing zones" need to be found. China will discuss the draft with other G77 members, fellow members of the BASIC bloc of newly industrialized countries - Brazil, South Africa, India - and with developed countries to come up with constructive proposals for a successful outcome, says Xie, who had suggested China was in a position to play a bridging role between developing and developed nations. The group demands the final deal recognize the proposed 1.5 C goal and include a clear pathway for a low-carbon future, a five-year update on national targets for cutting emissions and a climate finance package.
A goal to limit a rise in temperature is meaningless until there is a clear plan for how the world can achieve it, says Professor Teng Fei at Tsinghua University. China is the best-performing, non-EU country in the G20 in terms of decarbonization, recording a rate of 6 percent last year, according to the index. Developed countries have promised to mobilize $100 billion a year in green climate financing by 2020, which should be a "starting point" for the post-2020 period, ministers from the four BASIC countries said in a joint statement issued on Dec 8. Javadekar said at a joint news conference on Dec 8 that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's claim last month that rich countries had provided $62 billion to help developing countries combat climate change last year did not reflect the real numbers.
Countries' commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, submitted to the UN as so-called intended nationally determined contributions, were included in the nonbinding French draft text, which would be a victory for the United States, according to some observers. However, hundreds of delegates from NGOs staged an indoor sit-down protest at the Le Bourget conference site to call for enhanced pledges at the Paris conference on Dec 9. At the joint news conference on Dec 8, the BASIC ministers called for resolutions to the remaining areas of divergence to achieve a clear, concise and coherent legal text acceptable to all parties. Wu Changhua, director in Greater China for the nonprofit Climate Group, says pre-2020 climate action is essential to pave the way for post-2020 action. Seen as the blueprint for China's development for the next half-decade, the new five-year plan will be published next year. Within this context, the transparency, certification and corporate governance practices needed by projects in China to attract green finance funding would set a good standard for the country's overall financial reform, as increasingly more infrastructure projects use such standards, Mabey says. There are many potential policies China could consider including in its plan for the next five years, Eklund says. Idinvest Partners, the Paris-based private equity firm that was founded in 1997, funds innovative small and medium-sized enterprises at all stages of development. He adds that France came third overall in a Reuters survey on the most innovative nations, behind the United States and Japan, and that many French enterprises have made Forbes' list of the world's 100 most innovative companies.
Yet while French SMEs may be among the most innovative in Europe, Baviere says China is without doubt a new land for innovation, as evidenced by a series of laws and programs to support innovative companies, such as offering tax relief to shareholders in high-tech SMEs.
Chance has been designed to give Chinese investors access to high-quality investment vehicles and provide French SMEs access to the equity capital they need to grow internationally. Baviere says this is because the best targets, technology and know-how are not for sale on the open market, and speculates that there is underlying mistrust of Chinese intentions. The Chinese also undervalue the need for synergy, intercultural management and good labor relationships when implementing mergers, he adds.

China's Belt and Road Initiative will provide great connectivity for trade, ideas and capital between Asia and Europe, but setting up a solid regulatory framework for investment deals is the key to ensure success, says John Peace, chairman of Standard Chartered Bank. Opportunities for Western firms to participate in the initiative will be much more wide-ranging than the infrastructure sector itself, including areas like architecture and financial services, he says. China has already deployed funds totaling around $100 billion, consisting of $40 billion for the Central Asia-focused Silk Road Fund, $50 billion for a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and $10 billion for the BRICS-led New Development Bank.
The initiative spans 65 countries, with a total population of 4.4 billion, which is over 60 percent of the world's population, and together they account for only 29 percent of the global economy.
Peace says Asia's need for infrastructure will be great over the next decade, as countries seek to move up the value chain while absorbing fast-growing populations. According to Standard Chartered's estimates, official financing for the initiative could reach $1 trillion in the next decade, which may also increase demand for crude steel by 200 million metric tons in 10 years, or 20 percent of China's annual production capacity.
Peace says London could be a crucial location for infrastructure financing, given that the city is already a leading Western center for offshore renminbi activities. Managing the regulatory framework associated with these infrastructure deals is essential in ensuring investor confidence.
The public-private model, where government agencies and private investors jointly fund projects, is commonly used in the UK. China Club, an online platform set up this summer, is powered by China Daily Europe and hosted by Talkholiday, a travel-themed social networking website. Meanwhile, Renfrewshire-based oil, gas and petrochemical company Doosan Babcock employs 2,000 workers at its plant in Beijing that produces industrial boilers, and Lenovo, the PC maker, has a site about 5 kilometers from Glasgow Airport.
He has personally contributed $100 million to the program and is leading a campaign to raise an additional $300 million from private sources as endowments for the master's degree program. The program has received more than 3,000 applications for its first class of 100 next year, which will include approximately 45 Americans, 20 Chinese and 35 students from across the world.
In an interview with China Daily, Schwarzman spoke about the outlook for the Chinese economy, his company's business and his school project in China. As long-term investors, we see great opportunities to invest during periods of slower growth.
We also believe that as the scale of companies continues to get larger in China and as Chinese companies become more global, that there will be a continued need for operational expertise. I think a program like the Schwarzman Scholars is essential for helping that bridge-building process.
Actually, I'm a bad interviewee for you because I find all of them interesting due to their different industries and characteristics.
The Pretoria government invited tenders in July for an estimated $80 billion contract to build four nuclear reactors - the largest contract in the country's history - which attracted widespread interest, including from State Nuclear Power Technology Corp, Russia's state atomic agency Rosatom and French nuclear firms.
A pilot power station project involving the CAP1400 technology is likely to start construction in March in Shidaowan, Shandong province, but officials have emphasized that the really lucrative markets for the technology lie overseas. Zheng said the Shidaowan project is expected to be given final approval for construction from the State Council by the end of this year.
Sources close to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress told China Daily that the legislature will deliberate and approve the IPO reform by the end of this month, clearing the last legal hurdle for the country to adopt the registration-based IPO system. The approval from the top legislature will be valid for two years, meaning that the IPO reform must be completed and implemented within the time frame, Deng Ge, a CSRC spokesman, told a news conference in Beijing.
The acceleration of launching the registration-based IPO system underscored the government intention to address the pressing issue of high financing costs and fundraising difficulties for companies amid a slower economy, said Hong Hao, chief strategist at investment bank BOCOM International Holdings Co. Delinking gas pipelines was put on top of the national agenda in October 2013 when the State Council Development Research Center published a plan called "383" that aims to separate the gas pipeline networks from the oil and gas suppliers and form a number of independent pipeline operators, subject to the government's supervision. SPIL said the majority of funds raised from the cooperation are expected to be used for investments in Taiwan, including hardware development and cultivation of local talent to sustain long-term development.
He said that on average, the price-earnings ratio of Chinese mainland chip firms are roughly five times higher than companies based in Taiwan, leaving Taiwan firms much larger room for profit growth. In 2013, Unigroup acquired Shanghai-based fabless semiconductor company Spreadtrum Communications Inc for about $1.8 billion. China, the world's biggest market for chipsets, is eagerly looking for a local semiconductor giant to lower import costs. Aluminum for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.5 percent to $1,499 a ton in afternoon trade in Shanghai, reversing an earlier loss.
The huge structure, used to dig tunnels for underground railways and mining projects, is almost the same length as a three-wagon train. Built by China Railway Engineering Equipment Group Co, the massive device will be soon be disassembled and shipped to Singapore, for use there on the construction of a new subway tunnel.
Officials at CREG, the construction machinery subsidiary of China Railway Group Ltd, said they expect to keep expanding this lucrative type of specialist engineering work into other key foreign markets next year, after enjoying their best ever year. The company is also considering foreign acquisitions next year to secure more orders and reduce its own manufacturing costs, he said. The advantage of the center lies on having established its own customs center and quarantine, inspection and duty offices to ease trade procedures for the around 1,000 companies using the bonded warehouse. Additionally, the fiscal benefits of the center are allowing online customers to save money with their purchases of imported goods. The Ministry of Commerce forecasts that cross-border e-commerce will be worth 6.5 trillion yuan in 2016, accounting for 20 percent of the country's total foreign trade. This month, Greece will seek binding bids for a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, the state-run company that operates the harbor. The latest delay came at the request of the potential investors, Cosco included, with the Greeks setting Dec 21 as a new deadline for bids.
He has tempered his tone since being forced in July to accept a new, 86 billion euro bailout to keep the country in the eurozone. Annual investment by Chinese companies in EU member states soared from virtually zero in the mid-2000s to 14 billion euros last year, according to a June report by Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.
The existing infrastructure and deals with international operators such as Cosco provided a good starting point and critical mass for future expansion, McKinsey said.

A banner exhorting locals to join a strike against the government's latest round of austerity measures - foreclosures and pension reforms - on Nov 12 is still strung along the side of traffic lights. In the lobby of the building, former prime minister Antonis Samaras, one of the champions of Cosco's investments in Greece, is photographed in a hard hat at the pier. It is widely seen as an example of what international investment and smart local development can achieve, with businesses in the zone receiving tax incentives.
These became a major driving force for China's economy, allowing private investment to flow into the country and for a huge transfer of skills and technology to take place.
When the attractions were being built originally, the problem was that people may come in for an hour or two or a morning, but there was nothing to keep them overnight. We see great potential for a service, for example, from China to Shannon and on to South America, because that can carry both passengers and cargo." Edmond says.
Corporate tax in Ireland, at 12.5 percent, is attractive for businesses, compared with Singapore at 17 percent, the United Kingdom at 20 percent, China at 25 percent and Germany at 30 percent. However, for companies established in Ireland, in the same scenario, they have to pay only the preferential Irish corporate tax according to Irish tax law, which can help them offer a competitive price and make a profit," Xu says. The company is planning to rope in more high-end manufacturers to boost the overall image of its online marketplace. The country says it fully understands the 1.5 C goal, but argues that developed countries would need to massively reduce emissions and scale up financing for developing countries.
For example, the activities of the People's Bank of China will be coherent with the policy objectives of the 13th Five-Year Plan. Baviere believes the program will create jobs in China and France, as well as create value in China by developing solutions for major problems.
It is something that would be beneficial not just for Britain and China, but also many other countries, particularly those who would be impacted". According to official forecasts, China's outward direct investment will total $1.25 trillion in the next 10 years. The city's banks have expertise to structure deals along Belt and Road routes, and many international investors. It comes at a time when the Scottish government is keen to secure stronger transport links with the world's fastest-growing economy, to allow for greater trade. So for us to be effective in the rest of the world, it is essential to know what's going on in China. That is quite different from Shanghai where the people are always on the move - traders, smart business people - which is different from Beijing, where the pace is a little slower and more deliberate, but still huge and interesting. These sections have an annual transportation capacity of 80 billion cubic meters, accounting for 45 percent of China's natural gas consumption.
The end consumers can hardly negotiate with them for prices," said Liu Yijun, a professor who specializes in the natural gas sector at the China University of Petroleum. Spreadtrum was the key for Unigroup to enter mobile chipmaking market where the United States giant Qualcomm is the leader.
Chinese mainland spent more than $200 billion for importing chipsets in 2014, higher than the amount for oil imports during the same period, official data showed. The metal has fallen 23 percent in the past year as a supply glut in China, which accounts for 40 percent of global output, overwhelms demand.
Centers are planned for Australia and Brazil next year, too, to service the Oceania and American markets. The government's Belt and Road Initiative, he said, will provide a huge boost to the export of Chinese-built construction machinery, and presents rich business opportunities for firms like CREG. Additionally, the city's airport created a special e-commerce zone for the import of foreign goods. The rapid creation of these massive warehousing and distribution platforms reflects the increasing importance that cross-border e-commerce has for the Chinese economy. Cosco is among three bidders for the stake and considered a front-runner, given its investments so far and promise of more. A major new airport planned for Crete, tendered in 2009 on the eve of general election, then canceled and now dusted off again, would give the Chinese an additional foothold in the Mediterranean. Once the company leases a plane, it is the client that is responsible for maintenance, Xu says. These funds may have more transparency than conventional bonds, since the use of proceeds often is certified by a third party to ensure the use is solely for environmental projects. For example, our funds own approximately 30 shopping malls that cater to the middle class in China, and we have seen a year-over-year increase in sales there of 16 percent.
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