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Where there's friendship, there's wealth

By Lyu Fan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-08 08:12

China and Spain have a history of standing by each other, and their friendship built on mutual trust and respect continues to flourish

China and Spain share a deep friendship despite being so far apart, one in East Asia and the other in Western Europe.

They established diplomatic ties on March 9, 1973, but relations gathered pace since the launch of reform and opening-up in 1978 and Spain completed its democratic transition.

In 2005, the two countries upgraded their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, making Spain one of the first European Union nations to share such a high-level relationship with China. During President Xi Jinping's visit to Spain in November 2018 relations received a further boost in the form of a joint statement that acts as a guide for their future relations.

Where there's friendship, there's wealth

The comprehensive strategic partnership embodies the long and friendly political ties with mutual trust that exists between China and Spain. Two examples show it best. From the 1980s to the 1990s, China faced sanctions from Western countries led by the United States and the European Community. Spain took the initiative to end this hostility. Between November 1990 and February 1991, foreign minister-level visits from both sides helped improve Sino-EU ties.

Later, after the international financial crisis and European sovereign debt crisis, it was China that provided Spain necessary support.

As a responsible long-term investor in the Spanish financial market, China is committed to buying Spanish bonds and helping it overcome difficulties. Without any doubt, it is the mutual political trust that serves as an essential guarantee for the pragmatic cooperation between China and Spain. The comprehensive strategic partnership also reflects the broad cooperation between the two countries, which includes trade, finance, telecommunications, ports, airlines, culture, sports, education, technology, tourism, environmental protection, police affairs and law enforcement.

Some examples show the significance of their cooperation.

For instance, the current organ donor system in China, is modeled on the Spanish system. The first 5G call in the world was realized between relevant Spanish companies and Huawei.

Also, the police from both countries worked together in 2016 to expose a massive telecommunications and internet fraud in Spain. Three years later, 227 suspects were extradited to China. It was the first time China and an EU country jointly carried out action against telecom and internet fraud, writing a new chapter in the history of extradition.

Spain's royal family, too, has helped cement the friendship with China. During his reign, King Juan Carlos I visited China in 1978, 1995 and 2007. Current King Felipe VI, too, has made several trips, from the time he was crown prince to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In November 2018, he received President Xi during his state visit to Spain.

Cooperative projects involving the giant panda indicate China's significance to the Spanish royal family. Since the Chinese government presented the first pair of pandas to Spain in 1978, the two countries have cooperated closely on panda conservation.

In 2018, on the 40th anniversary of the first arrival of giant pandas in Spain, the two sides renewed a cooperation agreement on giant panda protection and research. King Juan Carlos I's wife Queen Sophia attended the signing ceremony.

All sections of Spanish society have appreciated President Xi's Belt and Road Initiative. The Spanish Prime Minister attended the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and his representatives the second.

China and Spain have since collaborated on a number of important projects. At the end of 2014, the Yiwu-Madrid freight route (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) was launched across the Eurasian continent, connecting Yiwu in East China's Zhejiang province to Madrid in Spain. The 13,000-kilometers route touches eight countries, the longest from China to Europe.

In 2017, China's COSCO Shipping Ports Co Ltd acquired shares in related Spanish companies along with management rights of container terminals at the ports of Valencia and Bilbao and auxiliary railway stations in Madrid and Zaragoza. It took only a year for the company to expand the port operations and maritime transport in Spain.

As one of the first members of the Silk Road International Theater Alliance, the Spanish Royal Theatre is actively involved in cultural integration under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. The theater signed a cooperation agreement with the National Center for the Performing Arts, which ensures that international audiences get to enjoy high quality work produced by the NCPA.

After the inking of a plan on educational exchanges and cooperation in 2011, more progress has been made in the field of language teaching between the two countries. Since the autumn semester of 2018, Spanish has been listed as a subject in Chinese public senior schools. And now Chinese is part of the curriculum in Spanish primary and secondary schools.

During President Xi's visit last year, the two governments signed a memorandum on strengthening cooperation in third-party markets. This way, they will support enterprises to jointly develop their business in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Energy and telecommunications projects have already been carried out in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Chinese people believe in the philosophy of "many friends, many roads". And there is an old saying that being respectful, cautious and polite, all men under heaven are brothers. Similarly, people in Spain believe all�� hay riqueza donde hay amigos (there's wealth where there are friends) and amistad de hombres leales, s��lo perdura entre iguales (equal treatment nourishes long friendship).

In fact, people in both China and Spain are willing to know each other. Today, nearly 220,000 overseas Chinese live in Spain, while 15,000 Chinese students study there. Also, hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists visit Spain every year.

With such strong roots China-Spain relations will bear more fruit in the new era, and friendship between the people of the two countries will grow stronger and deeper.

The author is China's ambassador to Spain. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(China Daily Global 11/08/2019 page13)

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