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Hu's Visit Expected to Push Sino-Spanish Ties Forward
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Chinese President Hu Jintao starts a state visit to Spain on Sunday at the invitation of Spanish King Juan Carlos I, which is expected to greatly push the Sino-Spanish relations forward.


In recent years, relations between the two countries have been steadily strengthened, especially after the April 2004 elections.


Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero paid a visit to China this July. After his visit, the ties between the two countries got further strengthened, with many Spanish businesspeople flocking into China to invest in sectors of finance, insurance, telecommunication, construction industry.


Spain has attached great importance to its relations with China. Since their diplomatic relations was set up in 1973, the two countries have enjoyed good friendship, with frequent exchanges of high-level visits facilitating their mutual understanding and political trust.


Moreover, Spain has always supported China's stance on the Taiwan issue -- a solid foundation for further development of the relations.


The Spanish government also shares with China viewpoints on major international issues.


Spain is against unilateralism and holds that the world should be multipolarized and the United Nations play the leading role in tackling world affairs.


The Spanish government has also made effort to boost trade with China. Back in 2000, the Spanish government under former Prime Minister Aznar mapped out the "Asia-Pacific Strategic Plan" to enhance relations with China and other Asia Pacific countries.


Based on the strategic plan, the Spanish government produced the "China Plan" in this May, aiming at promoting trade and economic ties with China.


According to the plan, China together with eight other countries will be prioritized markets of Spain and will receive investment totaling about 690 million euros (US$815 million) from Spain between 2005 and 2007.


Spanish media reported that in the first five months of 2005, more than 30 Spanish companies set up offices and factories in Chinese cities of Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing, to bring the total number of Spanish companies in China to nearly 300.


Meanwhile, Chinese companies have also set up offices or joint ventures in Spain.


A Chinese diplomat in Spain said the annual trade volume between China and Spain has increased rapidly from US$12 million in 1973 to 7.2 billion in 2004 and is hopefully to arrive at 10 billion in 2005.


Spain has now invested US$600 million in China, accounting for only one percent of China's total foreign investment.


As Spain is the eighth biggest economy in the world with a total GNP of 837.5 billion euros (US$990,1 billion) last year, it is evident that there is still large room for both countries to further their economic cooperation, the diplomat said.


Spanish companies have quickened their march toward Chinese market. For instance the Spanish oil company CEPSA and several other big companies have set up offices or factories very lately in China.


Spain claims to be the world's second most popular tourist destination and believes Chinese tourists going out will reach 100 million by 2020. It therefore plans to receive 150,000 to 200,000 Chinese tourists in the coming three to five years.


To help realizing the plan, two Spanish airline companies the Air Europa and Plus Comet have already started non-stop flights between Spain and China and the Madrid Airline will follow the suit soon.


The Spanish newspaper El pats said in a recent editorial that Spain, though not an early player in Chinese market, will still score great achievements and gain profits in developing good economic relations with China.


Just as Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos put it, Hu's visit will accelerate the progress of Sino-Spanish relations and intensify their cooperation in various aspects.


(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2005)


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