Home Editions Xi invites Sanchez to Beijing in attempt to mediate full war in Ukraine

Xi invites Sanchez to Beijing in attempt to mediate full war in Ukraine

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Sanchez and Xi at the G-20 summit in Bali (Indonesia) in November 2022.
Sanchez and Xi at the G-20 summit in Bali (Indonesia) in November 2022.Borja Puig de la Belcasa (EFE/Moncloa Pool)

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has invited Pedro Sanchez to pay a state visit to Beijing next week, the 31st, at an especially pertinent moment as the leader of the Asian superpower has just returned from a three-day trip to Moscow. where he offered himself as a mediator and proposed a peace plan to find a way out of the war in Ukraine. Sanchez is clearly set on European and NATO positions, and therefore closer to the US. In fact, the President of Spain recently visited Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev and expressed his unconditional support. He even gave a speech in the Ukrainian parliament to thunderous applause.

The situation is therefore different from that of China, which has maintained significant proximity to Moscow, although without sending it arms and therefore formally entering the conflict. However, Spain’s government has always highlighted the prominent role that China is playing in trying to influence Vladimir Putin and get out of the year-long war. Sanchez talks more and more about peace plans, although he supports the one that Zelensky has raised, which involves the recovery of all of Ukraine’s territory, including the annexed Crimean peninsula. Sanchez will have the opportunity to learn firsthand about Xi’s plan and receive information about the situation in Moscow. According to government sources, as usual and in view of the good relations between the two NATO allies, the US has been informed of the visit.

Sanchez has already met Xi in a bilateral meeting at the last G20 summit in Bali in November 2022. And then already the Spanish government highlighted China’s role as a possible mediator. That was the gist of the message Sanchez conveyed to Xi in Bali, where they also discussed the Spanish presidency of the European Union, which will take place in the second half of this year, and trade issues. Now four months later, China’s role has become even more important.

The fact that Xi has invited Sanchez at such a time is seen by the government as evidence of Spain’s growing international weight, and of the president himself, who has turned to the foreign agenda. In fact, Sanchez will travel to China almost immediately after returning from the Ibero-American summit in Santo Domingo later this week, and later directly from the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. Between the two visits, the government mini-crisis will probably come to replace the two ministers who are candidates, Reyes Maroto (Industry) and Carolina Darias (Health).

The president’s international agenda sometimes complicates the national agenda, in fact in La Moncloa he had to find space for a motion of censure this week amid international commitments. That would leave the president with two control sessions next week, one he had scheduled for Tuesday in the Senate with Alberto Nuñez Feijoa and one in Congress as usual on Wednesday.

China has classified the trip as a state visit, and it means not only that Sanchez will meet with Xi, the most relevant appointment in the ironclad regime where the president wields all power and himself with a third term of five. years, but also with Premier Li Qiang and Chairman of the National People’s Congress Zhao Lejie. Before arriving in Beijing on the 30th, Sanchez will attend the opening of the Boao Forum, a kind of Chinese Davos, to be held in Hainan province. The Forum is chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. Xi was on a state visit to Spain in 2018.

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For Sanchez, this kind of travel is especially relevant at this time. The president is focused on his international profile and wants to make the most of the opportunity of the Spanish presidency of the European Union, which will come at a decisive electoral moment. The EU maintains significant trade tensions with China, and Sanchez himself acknowledged at a press conference in Brussels that it is a “rival”, a competitor, and now even more so after the pandemic, Europe deepening its strategic autonomy. Because the Covid crisis showed that it was dependent on China for almost everything, even manufacturing technically simple masks or respirators. But this rivalry doesn’t mean the EU doesn’t want China, the great industrial power, and important ties in geostrategic issues like the war in Ukraine or the fight against climate change. That’s why Sanchez will try to find a compromise with Xi over the Spanish presidency of the European Union in a bid to boost ties that semester.

The official pretext for the visit is that it is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. But interest is most political in the context of the war in Ukraine. Sanchez is among European presidents, including German Olaf Scholz—who also went to Beijing—or French Emmanuel Macron, who are more explicitly committed to seeking a peace deal, as long as Ukraine supports it, than countries. supports it. The former, such as Poland, who have a tough position and propose a complete reunification of Ukraine in order to win the war against Russia at all costs.

The visit will also have an economic content and in addition to participating in the Chinese Davos, Sánchez will meet in Beijing with businessmen from this country who want to invest in Spain and with Spaniards who are already established in China, the place where a The bulk of the products are manufactured. Products of large Spanish companies. In a previous meeting with Xi in Bali, the Chinese president complained to Sanchez about the barriers the European Union places on some Chinese products. “We welcome the entry of more Spanish companies and products into the Chinese market, as well as hope that Spain will provide equal, fair, transparent and non-discriminatory treatment to Chinese companies in its market,” the official Chinese note said after Gone meeting. between the two leaders. China wants to avoid at all costs that EU countries impose trade barriers. Also on the table as a topic of discussion is a 30,000-million-euro contract in which Airbus, in which Spain has a stake, has closed in China to build around 300 commercial aircraft.

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