By Carlos Blasco Villa
As it is widely known, political relations between China and
Spain are excellent. There are no disputes between the two
countries and their respective viewpoints on many international
issues have reached a broad consensus.
Nevertheless, bilateral relations in some fields most notably in
the economic one have not reached a level of development that
corresponds to their potential, and there is still insufficient
Thus, to provide the friendly relationship between Spain and
China with deeper content and to make Spain better known to the
Chinese people, the 2007 Year of Spain in China will kick off in
Beijing in mid-March, as the two governments agreed during the
state visit of President Hu Jintao to Spain in November 2005.
The activities planned for the Year of Spain in China will
present all sectors of Spanish life to the Chinese. Top on the
agenda is the Spanish government's objective for Spain, the eighth
largest economy in the world in terms of GDP volume (around US$1.2
billion in 2006, equal to about half the Chinese GDP).
The king and queen of Spain will make a state visit to China in
the middle of this year, bringing with them a splendid exhibition
from the Prado Museum, probably one of the most important art
galleries in the world.
Besides sports and business, there will be cultural events
featuring sculpture, ballet, flamenco dance, modern theater and
film festivals (with the participation of the Spanish Institute
Cervantes in Beijing).
Through the wide array of programs, we hope that Spain will be
seen as a modern and developed country with an impressive tradition
of welfare policies that reach the entire population, as well as a
serious and reliable commercial partner in possession of
cutting-edge technology, and as a democratic, free and open
society. Our country is one of the world's favorite tourist
destinations due to its beautiful scenic spots, warm climate,
gastronomy, folklore, friendly people and ancient cultural
In addition, to increase mutual understanding between the
Spanish and Chinese peoples, we need to work to strengthen the
strategic partnership between our two nations, which has a
comprehensive meaning and covers all fields of activity. For
instance, the presence of Spanish enterprises in China should be
facilitated, along with facilitating Chinese enterprises in
Enhancing the bilateral strategic partnership can also be
achieved by establishing joint ventures and common businesses.
These ventures would take advantage of the facilities and
possibilities for growth in both countries, as well as cooperating
in third markets where enterprises of either country have prominent
positions, such as Latin America, Europe and the US in the case of
Spanish companies and Asia and Africa in the case of Chinese
At present, Spain only has about 450 companies operating at
different levels in China. This figure must notably increase for
the Spanish business network in China to be comparable to those of
other foreign countries with similar economies.
For this reason, business contacts will be strengthened through
the Spain-China Forum, the Spain-China Investment Forum and the
Chinese Youth Business Leaders Visit to Spain program, where we
will arrange a series of seminars, business meetings and exchange
meetings for a better understanding of the social and economic
agents of our two countries.
There is also the 2005-07 Plan for the Comprehensive Development
of the Market (China Plan) currently taking place, with a budget of
710 million euros (US$931 million) to boost the development of
commerce, investment and tourism between both countries.
It is still too early to talk about the fruitful results of a
plan that has only been recently implemented and is currently being
carried out. And it will depend on the skills of the Chinese and
Spanish authorities to involve our respective social and business
I have noticed that Spanish companies are willing to take
advantage of the opportunities that the Chinese market offers.
During the months that I have been leading the Spanish Embassy, I
have witnessed an increasing and unprecedented number of Spanish
companies visiting this country.
The above-mentioned plan and the celebration of the Year of
Spain in China will surely strengthen these possibilities. Since
campaigns will increase to promote visits to Spain, we are sure
that a better understanding of Spain by Chinese tourists will lead
them to choose Spain as a holiday destination.
The plan will also boost Spanish investment in China, which to
date is relatively poor. There are already very good examples of
the sort, though not in the framework of this plan. They include
BBVA, a Spanish bank with a wide network of offices in Europe,
Latin America and the US, and Telefnica, our most powerful company
in the telecommunications sector, with a strong presence in markets
such as Latin America.
The reasons for which the Spanish government has paid special
attention to the Chinese market are more than obvious: It is the
biggest market in the world, although not the largest world
economy, and its potential is evident. Spanish businessmen cannot
miss such an important market, so the Spanish government has
fulfilled its responsibility of facilitating their expansion in
what will undoubtedly be the biggest consumer market in the world
in the near future.
By enhancing our own Special Agreement of Comprehensive
Strategic Partnership with China, we are contributing to the
comprehensive strategic partnership between the European Union and
China by creating more confidence and understanding between both
It is widely known that the authority for negotiation on this
partnership agreement corresponds to the EU and not to its member
states, but Spain contributes by taking constructive stances at the
EU internal meetings where decisions are taken on negotiating
Spain is fully aware of the efforts made by China to come closer
to international market economy standards. We are also aware of the
difficulties that this implies, since our country went through a
similar process not long ago. For this reason, we hope that China
will be able to appreciate this friendly posture and strive to give
Spanish businesses the right presence in its market, enjoying the
confidence of the Chinese government at all levels.
We are convinced that our bilateral efforts will serve to
successfully create the updated Partnership and Cooperation
Agreement between China and the EU, carrying it out in the
framework of the EU.
It is clear that such an agreement, one much more valuable than
the simple and currently existing commercial agreement, will help
to enhance cooperation between the EU as a whole and China and, of
course, between the individual EU member states and China. It is
most likely that one will lead to the other.
The agreement will allow us to discuss important issues such as
climate change, environmental protection, energy policies,
renewable and non-polluting energy, contagious diseases, problems
of population movements, and the like, sectors in which Spain is
already positioning itself in the Chinese market through its
There are good reasons for all the above points I have made. It
is quite clear that both China and Spain have points in common as
well as differences.
In regard to the latter, I think that the most obvious one is
the difference in size and population. On the one hand we are
talking about a country of about 10 million square kilometers with
a population of over 1.3 billion, and on the other, about a rather
small country with only half a million square kilometers and a
population of 45 million people.
But I think that both nations are highly energetic and have an
enterprising spirit combined with a deep sense of national and
cultural dignity, as well as ancient cultural traditions.
They have both been economic and political world powers in the
past (Spain was one of the most maybe the most powerful state
during the 16th and 17th centuries) and have experienced in the
last few centuries a period of political and social
Another point in common is their successful emergence in the
last few decades. Our two nations can share the experiences
concerning these transitions from economic and social decline to
the current success.
I should also mention Spain's experience in evolving from a
closed economy to an open one, which might be very practical, since
the Chinese economy is now going through the same process of
opening up, although obviously every country has to find its own
particular way which relates to its specific characteristics,
absent anywhere else.
The Spanish political transition of the last 25 years has
obtained worldwide recognition, due to fact that it has been
carried out in a peaceful and harmonious way, and thus it is
possible to draw some useful lessons out of it.
All in all, I hope the activities of the Year of Spain in China
will progressively continue our bilateral relations and further
promote Spain's global reality in the following years, taking
advantage as well of the favorable circumstances brought to us by
the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai Expo.
His Exellency Carlos Blasco Villa is Spanish ambassador to
(China Daily March 7, 2007)