Spain Ties with China Serve as a Model for EU Relations

The China-Spain relationship is a positive part in China’s wider and more complex relationship with the EU which is built on tangible mutual benefits.

This week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Spain to commemorate 50 years of official diplomatic relations between the two countries, and met with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. During his meeting with Sanchez, Wang stated that China aspires to maintain high-level exchanges with Spain so as to lift bilateral ties to a higher level, adding that the country stands ready to “strengthen the synergy of development strategies, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, and enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges.”

China’s multilateral ties with the European Union are at a critical juncture. At present, some forces are interested in introducing ideologically motivated geopolitical competition, and are seeking to take sides in bloc politics and pursue protectionism which will do nothing but harm the well-being of the people in the EU.

Despite this, China has always made significant efforts to keep its ties with European countries open, stable and in good faith. It upholds the “win-win” concept and multilateralism in bilateral relations, and seeks win-win cooperation. The strategic comprehensive partnership between China and Spain is one such example of its efforts in this regard.

Spain is one of the major economies of the EU and a core member of the eurozone, and both Spain and China have an interest in maintaining cordial relations. As a major exporter of automobiles and components, as well as olive oil and foodstuffs, Spain exports approximately 34 billion euros of goods per month. In recognizing this, the Chinese market offers unique opportunities for the country to expand and diversify its export model. In recent years, China has become Spain’s largest trading partner outside the EU and the second largest consumer of its olive oil. Moreover, Spain is China’s second largest source of imported pork.

Secondly, Spain is lauded as being one of the most popular destinations for international tourists anywhere in the world. In 2023, 85.1 million tourists traveled to the country, seeking its warm beaches, sunshine and popular cuisine. Over 130,000 Chinese tourists visited Spain in the first half of last year. In the coming years, a key priority between China and Spain could be increasing the flow of tourists between one another. As the two countries have pledged to deepen their people-to-people and cultural exchanges, more efforts are expected to be made to exert significant and valuable cultural appeal, and facilitate such exchanges.

The China-Spain relationship is a positive part in China’s wider and more complex relationship with the EU which is built on tangible mutual benefits. As Beijing continues to focus on building its relationship with the bloc, Spain, which has been more pragmatic and steadfast in its relationship with China, will remain a key partner. Meanwhile, Spain also serves as a demonstration of how China represents an opportunity to the continent, rather than a threat.