Amid the escalating Catalonia crisis, China offered the Spanish government its “consistent and clear” support.
On October 27, Catalonia declared independence from Spain after a disputed referendum. Minutes later, Madrid announced it would resume direct rule of Catalonia. On October 30, Spain’s state prosecutor called for charges of rebellion, sedition, fraud, and misuse of funds against the former Catalan leaders, while the former regional president has already left for Belgium with other members of his administration, according to Reuters.
Faced with a round of questions related to the Catalonia crisis at the regular press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chuying offered the Spanish government strong support, despite noting that the issue actually “ falls within Spain’s internal affairs.” Hua said:
China’s position on this issue has been consistent and unequivocal…We understand and support the Spanish government’s effort to uphold national unity, ethnic solidarity, and territorial integrity, oppose the act of splitting the country and undermining the rule of law, and believe Spain is capable of upholding the social order and safeguarding the rights and interests of its citizens.
Regarding relations between China and Spain, Hua said, “We will continue to develop friendly cooperation in various fields with Spain following the principle of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. ”
Generally speaking, China tends to oppose most independence or secessionist movements around the world, since China itself is struggling with advocacy for independence in various regions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a particularly strong stance toward any independent movements within China’s territory. During the recent 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi said in his opening speech that China will “resolutely safeguard the national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will absolutely not tolerate the tragedy of the country’s split.”
Against this backdrop, China’s position on Catalonia crisis is in line with its domestic policy.
Meanwhile, China has been strengthening ties with Spain in recent years. Particularly, Chinese investment in Spain has been increasing in a remarkable pace. According to a report from Baker McKenzie, a multinational law firm, in 2016, China’s investment in Spain quadrupled compared to the previous year, reaching €1.7 billion ($1.98 billion). Catalonia, in particular, received the most attention from Chinese investors. According to the government of Catalonia, in 2015, Catalonia attracted 40 percent of China’s total investment in Spain as 29 Chinese companies chose to base themselves in Catalonia. The government of Catalonia also said it “aims to attract Chinese and other Asian companies and facilitate the implementation and distribution of their goods in Europe.”
At the recent press briefing, Hua mentioned that China is “paying great attention” to the situation in Catalonia.