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Guest Opinion: China and Spain Strengthen Affinities Amid Global Challenges

by Xulio Rios

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s official visit to China on March 30 and 31 offers an excellent opportunity to strengthen mutual affinities between the two sides.

Sanchez will travel to Beijing after his trip to Boao to attend the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Spain in 2018, the world has confronted the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. To seek stability and cooperate to mitigate difficulties and challenges, Spain and China mutually desire to maintain their close bond.

Their mutually beneficial relationship has yielded positive results in recent decades. It is worth noting that affinities between both sides are growing in multiple fields, including trade and investment, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, science, and political and strategic understanding.

Regarding China as a vital cooperation partner, Spain should draw a roadmap for better engagement in the coming years. Sanchez’s visit may represent a new starting point to reinforce the cooperation praised by both sides for its advantages.

In 2005, China and Spain established their comprehensive strategic partnership, reflecting Madrid’s status as Beijing’s important partner in Europe. This signals that both parties are committed to promoting political dialogue and developing their relations at all levels, sharing a mutual interest in pragmatism.

Spain received significant assistance from China during its economic and financial woes when the Troika community led it to apply severe austerity measures. Given this, it’s understandable that Spain hopes to prioritize strengthening economic cooperation with China in commerce, investment and leading industry cooperation. Moreover, the resumption of tourism is excellent news.

By adjusting its COVID-19 response and the return to normalcy, the resumption of various bilateral forums is expected to pave the way for a recovery of the traditionally good harmony between the two sides.

Looking back at history, long-standing cultural communication has greatly helped build relations between the two countries, exemplified by the splendor of their people-to-people exchanges between the 16th and 19th centuries. During this period, outstanding figures such as Spanish missionaries Martin de Rada, Diego de Pantoja and Juan Cobo traveled to China.

Spain is set to assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of this year against a background in which the scourge of the pandemic has affected expectations of economic recovery in the region and beyond, and the Ukraine crisis has dashed expectations. The souring of U.S.-China relations has also profoundly impacted the bloc.

Spain has supported the EU’s strategic autonomy, advocating for a specific agenda that addresses the continent’s problems, interests and structural needs. In this respect, China, the EU and Spain can broaden their convergences.

Spain’s relationship with China remains constructive within the EU. As it braces for its turn at the bloc’s helm, Spain is expected to positively enhance EU-China relations, address differences through dialogue and foster dynamic growth while preventing stagnation.

Spain should embrace China in its global strategy. The Chinese economy will remain strong despite uncertainties amid headwinds against globalization, so China will continue offering opportunities. Likewise, valuing China’s growing role in the international system remains crucial.

With flexible and creative management of the bond with China, Sanchez’s visit can significantly strengthen Spain-China and EU-China relations and bolster continental and global stability.