Plunging into Piraeus: Calming Excessive Positive and Negative Froth

Jean-Marc F. Blanchard
Publication Date: 
August 15th, 2023

"Plunging into Piraeus," which is the 6th chapter in Chinese overseas ports in Europe and the Americas (Routledge, 2023), delves into COSCO Pacific’s extensive role in the Greek Port of Piraeus. This deep involvement has spurred a surfeit of commentary about its effects, much of it excessively laudatory or critical. This chapter observes, like many others, that China’s participation has dramatically enhanced the port’s performance and also acknowledges its noteworthy job creation effects. It also demonstrates, however, that Chinese involvement has not produced significant positive effects with respect to Greek trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), or various other metrics like government revenues. This chapter emphasizes that Chinese participation per se did not guarantee better port results, but that better performance flowed from a mixture of economic and political factors at various levels. In addition, this analysis challenges the thesis that China FDI in Piraeus is the sole driver of a harsher working environment, highlighting that larger sectoral trends also matter. The chapter further contests the assertion that Greek foreign policy has been dramatically transformed by the arrival of Chinese investment and identifies other domestic and international factors shaping Greek foreign policy. Overall, the Piraeus case demonstrates we must consider the domestic and international political and economic context to understand the dynamics of seaport cases where China has a major role.

Brief information about Chinese overseas ports in Europe and the Americas can be found here ( with more extensive information here (