Golfis Yiannis stands on the dock of the Athenian port of Piraeus, unflinching among the dust clouds stirred by the thundering lorries and clattering forklift trucks unloading the vast container ships. "That's Europe's new China Town over there," he says, pointing to the pier adjacent to where he is standing. "The only thing that is certain is that we've sold our soul to the Chinese." Pier Two of the container port, where Mr Yiannis, 48, has worked for the last 22 years, looks exactly the same as Pier One – certainly larger, but similarly flanked by gigantic ships and stacked with huge Lego brick-style containers. But while Pier One is Greek, Pier Two is now Chinese.

In June, China's state-owned shipping giant Cosco took control of Pier Two in a €3.3 billion deal to lease the pier for the next 35 years, investing €564 million in upgrading the port facilities, building a new Pier Three and almost tripling the volume of cargo it can handle. The container port, next door to the ferry harbour that is the tourist gateway to the Greek islands, can currently load and unload 1.8 million containers a year – meaning 5,000 come and go each day.

While many investors flee from the struggling European nation, China sees an opportunity to make strides into Europe, buying key assets at enticing prices and gaining access its valuable markets. The Chinese envisage creating a network of ports, logistics centres and railways to distribute their products across Europe – in essence a modern Silk Road – hastening the speed of East-West trade and creating a valuable economic foothold on the continent. They aim to make the container port a hub to rival Rotterdam – Europe's largest port. Read full article in The Daily Telegraph...