Greek scholar talks about the need of university courses on China on chinaandgreece

ΝΙΚΟΣ-ΚΟΤΖΙΑΣΤhe rise of China and the creation of a multipolar world are critical developments naturally attracting the attention of Greek scholars and universities. The first steps for the introduction and teaching of courses relevant to China have been already made. One of the institutions gradually following this direction is the University of Piraeus. Within this context, we met Professor of International Relations, Mr. Nikos Kotzias, who is playing a significant role on the matter. Mr. Kotzias talks about the courses he is currently teaching at the University of Piraeus regarding China and Chinese language courses  at this institution and assesses their impact on students. He also focuses on China’s role in world affairs and the future of Sino-Greek relations.

Why have you decided to teach the course ‘Society and Foreign Policy of China’?

I teach this course along with that on Russia since the establishment of the Department of International and European Studies at the University of Piraeus. Our Department – the biggest and best in the field of international relations in the country – offers a specialization program on the BRICS.  China, the faster growing economy in the world, is the most important one. China will seal the 21st century along with the USA. A scholar of international relations can hardly understand the modern world without knowledge on China.

Moreover, the Chinese civilization has almost a brotherly likeness with the Greek one. Greece has invented democracy and China has invented the organized state. The people of both countries have important traditions as well as common elements in their ancient civilizations and the philosophical and ethical questions they had asked to themselves approximately 2500-3000 years ago. But modern China also has many common problems with Greece, as for example Taiwan and Cyprus, the Muslim populations in both countries, and problems with neighboring countries concerning the status of islands in relation to tradition and international law.

Does your university undertake additional activities in relation to China?

Yes! We have now gained considerable expertise. From this academic year onwards Chinese is taught as an additional foreign language. We have established a research center as well as a BRICS branch, where we focus on China and Russia. Various research projects are carried out on China’s growth, Sino-Greek relations and the comparison of the two countries.  Additionally, from September 2015 onwards we will launch a new postgraduate program on the BRICS, principally China and Russia. This program will cover history and geopolitics but will also focus on how business in these countries can be implemented. We will organize several workshops in our university for the BRICS during this academic year. A conference on Greek relations with the BRICS will take place on May 7th 2015.

What is the impact of your activities on your students?

I can say that the impact is great. The courses and research activities regarding China and its relation to Greece can spark new thinking among young people on what can happen in the 21st century. They function as a good preparation. We have many students who are currently studying in China. I recommend this to everyone. What is highly significant is that our students acquire knowledge of the history, society, economy, language and culture of China. They can simultaneously combine it with a good grasp of knowledge on Western languages ​​and the American and European international system. These aspects are critical for a changing world which will be arguably Eurocentric.

How do you see China’s role in the world?

The role of China in the world is crucial. China is a great economic and cultural power, which seeks to achieve its harmonious development. It is important to mention that although China had controlled culturally inferior states, it never created colonies in the Western way. China is the country which had the highest productivity in the world for 16 centuries until the middle of the 17th century.  In a few decades it can possibly reach again the first position. Moreover, China understands the requirements of the multipolar world, it pays attention to respective balances, avoids to interfere in other countries, and respects all players of the international system. This is certainly positive irrespective of different views scholars might have on internal developments China and its domestic divergences and harmony.

How do you see the evolution and improvement of Sino-Greek relations?

Greece can become the bridge between China and the EU.  Greece has always respected China understanding the period of humiliation the latter has passed through due to the aggression of the West and Japan. Greece never was a colonial power in the era of capitalism. History can connect the countries. This history can be strengthened in the present paving the ground for a creative and harmonious development in the future.


Theano-Damiana Agaloglou