Spain PM prepares for China visit with Ukraine high on agenda
By Lorena Cantó
Beijing, Mar 28 (EFE).- China and Spain this year ring in half a century of diplomatic relations with relatively few ups and downs, something that could act in the Spanish prime minister’s favor when he embarks on a visit to the Asian giant this week to explore how Beijing could play a more prominent role in ending the war in Ukraine.
Pedro Sánchez will be the first Spanish PM to visit China since president Xi Jinping took on an unprecedented third five-year term in office, as his power swelled to levels not seen since Mao Zedong.
He will also be the first European leader to meet with Xi since China’s president met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow two weeks ago amid bristling tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Commenting on the scheduled visit, China’s foreign ministry noted the stability of its relations with Spain.
Given the lack of major hurdles in Sino-Spanish ties, the trip is likely to focus on the conflict in Ukraine and China’s potential role as a mediator for peace.
But Sánchez will do that in his capacity as the head of Spain’s government and will not be acting as a spokesperson for the European Union as whole, government sources have said.
Chinese media, nonetheless, has interpreted Sánchez’s visit, along with the one to be made in the coming weeks by French president Emmanuel Macron and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, as a signal of Brussels’ support for China’s involvement in a Ukraine peace plan.
Spain’s upcoming turn at the helm of the EU’s rotational presidency influences the dynamic of the encounter in Beijing, and observers will be watching to see if Sánchez can elicit concrete commitments from Xi and, in turn, whether Europe will warm to his peace proposals.
China has claimed impartiality with regards to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but many Western observers believe Beijing de facto supports Moscow.
Xi’s visit to Spain in 2018 was one of the most notable moments in 50 years of diplomatic ties between the nation.
Spain’s first high-level visit to China in modern times came in 1978 with a trip by king Juan Carlos I while Deng Xiaoping was in power.
Since then, every successive Spanish prime minister has made a trip to China.
Relations hit a rocky patch in 2013 when a Spanish court used universal jurisdiction to indict former Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin over alleged repression in Tibet, although the case was shelved the following year.
Sánchez is due to arrive in China on Thursday.EFE