Report by Hernán Alberro, Ellie Young, and Shiany Pérez-Cheng
- Steady influence: Beijing’s media influence in Spain remained strong during the coverage period of 2019–21, following a significant effort to strengthen relations in the wake of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s 2017 visit. Chinese state media have maintained long-standing relationships with their local mainstream counterparts while developing new ties to regional and digital outlets. Chinese diplomats were increasingly active on social media, engaging directly with news audiences and critics online.
- Varied avenues for content dissemination: Major public and private mainstream outlets republish Chinese state media content. Notably, El País regularly disseminated China Daily’s China Watch supplement and China Hoy inserts. China Global Television Network (CGTN) and China FM are available on national television and radio networks. The national news agency EFE, which is widely used by Spanish-speaking news consumers worldwide, shares content from the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency.
- Limited impact and declining public opinion: Spanish media generally offer robust and critical reporting on China, and several local outlets maintain correspondents in China who provide journalistic expertise on the country. Beijing’s influence on Spanish public opinion is low. Long-standing concerns about the impact of Chinese economic activity on small local businesses, combined with pandemic-related fears, contributed to an apparent decline in Spaniards’ opinions of China.
- Media narratives focus on bilateral ties, sovereignty: Chinese state media narratives largely focus on boosting bilateral ties, specifically in investment, trade, and technological cooperation, all of which are attractive to Spanish elites. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is actively promoted, although Madrid does not formally participate in the framework. Both state media and diplomatic actors have repeatedly linked the situation in Hong Kong and Taiwan to the separatist movement in Catalonia, calling for solidarity against foreign interference in internal affairs.
- Successful engagement with local elites: Spanish media executives and journalists have participated in Chinese-led media cooperation initiatives such as the Belt and Road News Network and the World Media Summit. Former political leaders have praised Beijing’s COVID-19 response and contributions to global public health while offering open support for its One China principle. Influential think tanks and academic experts focus their commentary on promoting trade and engagement while apparently avoiding subjects Beijing considers sensitive, such as its repressive domestic policies or human rights violations. The local embassy has actively used press statements and social media to respond to or berate journalists, media commentators, politicians, and human rights activists who published content that Beijing deemed offensive.
- No disinformation campaigns: There was no evidence of China-linked disinformation campaigns targeting or reaching audiences in Spain. However, Chinese state media and diplomats promoted false and misleading narratives on topics like forced labor in the Xinjiang region. They also repeatedly tied Beijing’s position on Hong Kong and Taiwan to the issue of Catalan independence. Some of this content was picked up by local commentators. An Associated Press and Oxford Internet Institute study in 2021 found that potentially inauthentic social media activity accounted for 12 percent of all engagement with Chinese diplomatic accounts in Spain.
- Strong influence in diaspora media: Spain’s Chinese expatriate and diaspora population is sizeable, numbering around 230,000. Chinese-language news outlets republish content from both Chinese and Spanish sources. Pro-Beijing editorial lines are dominant in the diaspora-facing media, which provide little critical coverage of the Chinese Communist Party or Chinese state policy. Many print and digital groups have close relationships with the local Chinese embassy, and several are members of the state-run Global Chinese Media Cooperation Union.
- Strong media and legal safeguards: The Spanish constitution has strong protections for freedoms of expression and the press. In addition, Madrid has begun to implement procedures and guidelines to combat foreign disinformation, in line with broader efforts promoted by the European Union. While no authority is specifically responsible for overseeing nonbroadcast media, foreign ownership is restricted in media and other sectors that are deemed strategic.
- Gaps and vulnerabilities: Transparency in advertising and media ownership is poor, and there are no regulations governing cross-ownership. Access to information has been increasingly challenged in recent years, and public officials have targeted journalists with criminal prosecution and abusive civil lawsuits. Other ongoing challenges to Spain’s media ecosystem include low public trust and widespread vulnerability to disinformation. Unlike some of their European counterparts, Spanish politicians have remained skeptical about the threat of coercive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence, instead privileging the need to maintain friendly ties. Some opposition politicians have leveraged concerns about Chinese Communist Party influence to attack the ruling party.
Spain is a member state of the European Union and is a parliamentary democracy rated Free in Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties1 . Freedom of expression in Spain is a constitutional right and press freedom is largely respected. In its 2023 ranking of freedom of the press worldwide, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) placed Spain 36th out of 180 countries evaluated.2 However, there are concerns about deteriorating media pluralism, worsening conditions for journalists, and polarization restricting access to information.3
In 2023, Spain and China marked the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. Over those years, the relations went through different stages. In 1973, Spain adopted Beijing’s “one China” principle explicitly recognizing both the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the only legal government of China, and the Chinese government holding that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China.4 In 2005, the Spanish and the Chinese governments signed an extradition treaty,5 which Spain ratified the following year, making it the first European Union country to have such an agreement with the PRC.6 Of all the countries that have extradited or deported Taiwanese nationals to China between 2016 and 2019, Spain has sent the most—a total of 219.7 Spain continued this practice even after several United Nations human rights special rapporteurs spoke against it.8
After the high-water mark of Spanish-Chinese relations in the first decade of the 21st century, however, they began to deteriorate, and Spain aligned more with the EU’s increasingly critical overall position on China.9 In 2018, the government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez refused to sign a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative during Xi Jinping’s visit to Madrid. The refusal reflected a reappraisal of relations between the two countries, in consultation with Spain’s main European and transatlantic partners, and “resulted in a more nuanced and selective approach to ties with China.”10
Bilateral trade in goods between Spain and China is characterized by a chronic deficit in favor of China. The volume of Chinese imports is in line with Chinese goods imported by neighboring countries, but the volume of exports to China is relatively smaller. However, China is Spain’s main trading partner in Asia and the leading destination for Spanish exports in the region.11
Though Spain did not receive Chinese-manufactured vaccines during the pandemic, it did accept masks and other health materials donated by Chinese companies and local governments,12 and bought other Chinese products like tests, many of which ultimately proved to be ineffective or of low quality.13
Technology-wise, in 2018, Spain’s primary telecommunications company Telefonica reached an agreement with Chinese telecom company Huawei to use its equipment.14 This changed in 2021 when Telefonica began to prefer European providers, amid debates over the risks of using Huawei’s 5G infrastructure.15 However, Chinese-made technology is being used for surveillance and safety purposes,16 in particular in cities like Tres Cantos and other municipalities implementing “smart city” projects.17 Even the military used Chinese drones to spray disinfectant during the COVID-19 pandemic.18
Though Spain has a long history of anti-Americanism,19 public opinion surveys show that the US has a better image than China. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that when people ages 18 to 29 were surveyed on their attitudes toward China and the US, Spanish people ages 18 to 29 young adults showed the most positive view towards China in Europe.20
- 1Freedom House, “Spain,” in Freedom in the World 2023, https://freedomhouse.org/country/spain/freedom-world/2023.
- 2“Spain,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF), accessed August 8, 2023, https://rsf.org/en/country/spain
- 3Pere Masip et al., “Monitoring Media Pluralism in the Digital Era: Application of the Media Pluralism Monitor in the European Union, Albania, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia & Turkey in the Year 2020: Country Report: Spain,” European University Institute, July 2021, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2870/739737.
- 4Andrés Herrera-Feligreras, “España y China: Del Reconocimiento Diplomático a La Asociación Estratégica Integral (1973-2005)” [Spain and China: From diplomatic recognition to comprehensive strategic association] (doctoral dissertation, Universidad Pública de Navarra, 2014), https://academica-e.unavarra.es/xmlui/handle/2454/17744.
- 5“Instrumento de ratificación del Tratado de Extradición entre el Reino de España y la República Popular China, hecho en Madrid el 14 de noviembre de 2005” [Instrument of ratification of the extradition treaty between the Kingdom of Spain and the People’s Republic of China, done in Madrid on November 14, 2005], Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado, Gobierno de España, BOE-A-2007-6512, https://www.boe.es/eli/es/ai/2005/11/14/(3).
- 6Steven Jiang, “94 Taiwanese Criminal Suspects Extradited from Spain to Beijing,” CNN, June 7, 2019, https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/07/asia/taiwan-extradition-beijing-intl….
- 7“China Calls It ‘Nonsense’, Taiwan Expresses Concern, We’re Still Waiting for Spain to Explain,” Safeguard Defenders, December 3, 2021, https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/china-calls-it-nonsense-taiwan-e….
- 8“UN Human Rights Experts Urge Spain to Halt Extraditions to China Fearing Risk of Torture or Death Penalty,” Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), May 18, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2018/05/un-human-rights-experts….
- 9Andrés Ortega. “Spain and China: A European Approach to an Asymmetric Relationship,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), October 15, 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/spain-and-china-european-approach-asymmet….
- 10Mario Esteban, “A Look at the Future of Relations between Spain and China,” Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, April 4, 2023, https://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/en/analyses/a-look-at-the-future-of….
- 11Informe Económico y Comercial: China [Economic and trade report: China] (Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior (ICEX), January 2022), https://www.icex.es/content/dam/es/icex/documentos/quienes-somos/donde-….
- 12Casa de S.M. el Rey (@CasaReal), “Mañana Llegan a España 50.000 Test de COVID19 Comprometidos Por El Presidente de @AlibabaGroup Jack Ma En Una Nueva Conversación Con El Rey; En Unos Días Se Recibirán 100 Respiradores…” [Tomorrow, 50,000 COVID19 tests committed by @AlibabaGroup president Jack Ma in a new conversation with the king arrive in Spain; in a few days, 100 respirators will be received…], Twitter, March 24, 2020, https://twitter.com/casareal/status/1242460614137729026.
- 13Adrián Foncillas, “El mercado salvaje de las mascarillas” [The wild market of masks], El Periódico, April 11, 2020, https://www.elperiodico.com/es/internacional/20200411/los-fraudes-estro….
- 14“Telefonica : and Huawei Reach a Global Agreement to Promote the Enterprises’ Migration to the Cloud,” MarketScreener, November 27, 2015, https://www.marketscreener.com/quote/stock/TELEF-NICA-S-A-68962/news/Te….
- 15Harry Baldock, “Telefonica Spain Snubs Huawei in Favour of Nokia, Ericsson for SA 5G,” Total Telecom, June 15, 2021, https://totaltele.com/telefonica-spain-snubs-huawei-in-favour-of-nokia-….
- 16“AI Global Surveillance Technology,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed August 10, 2023, https://carnegieendowment.org/publications/interactive/aI-surveillance.
- 17“TRES CANTOS | ‘Somos una gran Smart Citie, donde la tecnología tricantina se utiliza para mejorar la calidad de vida’” [TRES CANTOS | We are a great Smart City, where Tricantine technology is used to improve the quality of life], Soy de Madrid, May 13, 2021, https://www.soydemadrid.com/noticia-tres-cantos/somos-una-gran-smart-ci….
- 18Che Pan, “Spain’s Military Uses DJI Agricultural Drones to Spray Disinfectant in Fight against Covid-19.” South China Morning Post, April 1, 2020, https://www.scmp.com/tech/gear/article/3077945/spains-military-uses-dji….
- 19Chislett, William. “El antiamericanismo en España: el peso de la historia,” [Anti-Americanism in Spain: The weight of history], Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, November 15, 2005, accessed July 25, 2023, https://web.archive.org/web/20200620114859/http://www.realinstitutoelca….
- 20Laura Silver, Christine Huang and Laura Clancy, “Across 19 Countries, More People See the U.S. than China Favorably—but More See China’s Influence Growing,” Pew Research Center, June 1, 2023, https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/06/29/across-19-countries-….
Propaganda and promotion of favored narratives
Although Spain did not sign the Belt and Road Initiative, participation and cooperation is widely promoted by China in Spain. In almost every speech1 made by the Chinese ambassador to Madrid and in every piece published in newspapers,2 there is a reference to the economic opportunities presented by Chinese cooperation with Spain, the Belt and Road Initiative,3 and the 8,000-mile railway line that connects the coastal Chinese city of Yiwu and Madrid as a cornerstone of cooperation. Even at cultural events like the anniversary of an Instituto Confucio (Confucius Institute, a Chinese government–sponsored organization promoting Chinese language and culture), speakers make a point of emphasizing the economic importance of this bilateral cooperation.4
In this same vein, the Chinese government and companies are deeply engaged in spreading the narrative of Chinese green and technological investments in Spain. One of the leading think tanks in the country, the Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, published a report calling for the the development of a “Strategy for Scientific and Technological Cooperation” with China, similar to the one Spain has with Germany.5 Most Chinese investments in Spain are related to energy, specifically renewable energy, and China is becoming a key partner of the country’s decarbonization plan.6
As demonstrations and claims of independence in Catalonia and Hong Kong began taking place almost at the same time between 2015 and 2020, the Chinese government emphasized the “understanding and support [between Spain and China] on the issues of Gibraltar, Catalonia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”7 With the Hong Kong hashtag, China Daily published a video8 of Catalonian pro-independence protests in Barcelona and riot police responding to demonstrators and clashes, in a clear threatening message aimed at demonstrators in Hong Kong. Though some Spanish media outlets like El Confidencial9 understood this video for what it was—a clear threat to Hong Kong activists—other local media outlets followed China’s lead: El Mundo Financiero presented a special series of articles under the section “Incitando el Caos” (Inciting chaos) showing the negative impacts of separatist movements10 and the violent consequences.11
Another major narrative pushed by China in Spanish media was the handling of the pandemic and Chinese efforts to assist countries in their responses. At the beginning of the health crisis in China, the PRC narrative focused on preventing the stigmatization of Chinese people, rejecting narratives that painted COVID as linked to the sale of wildlife in China, and demonstrating control over the situation.12 s
When COVID-19 started spreading in Wuhan, the Spanish government and media repeated the official Chinese narrative that the CCP was handling the crisis the right way, and emphasized the dangers of stigmatizing the Chinese community.13 The Chinese embassy in Spain was very active in trying to spread this narrative through op-eds14 and social media.15
Prime Minister Sánchez’s trip to China in March 2023 was the first by a Western leader since the end of the COVID controls in China. While Madrid still seeks to keep good economic relations and understanding with Beijing, the war in Ukraine, and the dual roles the PRC has attempted to play of both a friend of Russia and an impartial peacemaker, have clearly changed the situation. Since Xi’s visit to Spain in 2018, the relationship between the EU and China has shifted substantially due to a freeze on a mutual investment treaty, reciprocal sanctions between Chinese political leaders and members of the European Parliament (MEPs), resistance to Huawei’s 5G expansion, and the pandemic.16 All these contributed to a very carefully managed meeting between the two leaders in spring 2023.17
Key avenues of content dissemination
- Chinese state media direct broadcasts and social media presence: Chinese state media have a significant presence in Spain but a very limited impact on the local population—many Spaniards don’t even know about their existence. Television channels such as China Central Television (CCTV) and China Global Television Network (CGTN), both controlled by the CCP, are widely distributed by paid cable TV providers, but their viewer ratings are low, and sometimes the channels are hard to find within the channels menu.18 On the other hand, Xinhua has established a bureau in Madrid and expanded its newsroom.19 The most important news agency in Spain, EFE, uses Xinhua as a source, as does Europa Press, both of which in turn are widely used by Spanish media outlets.
China and the Chinese language are also present on the radio. Dawei Ding, a former PRC official state media correspondent and a prominent member of the diaspora in Spain who has close relations with the PRC embassy is key in this space. In 2014, he launched Spain Radio Internacional to promote Chinese culture in Spain.20 China FM is another Chinese-language station, established in 2017 as the first Mandarin radio station in Europe with the aim to promote Chinese-Spanish integration and facilitate exchanges. This radio station was then acquired by Spain Radio Internacional in 2019, and Ding has continued to serve on its board since.21
Social media follow only TV as the country’s preferred mode of accessing information, and the Chinese diplomatic mission maintains an active presence.22 By number of users, the top social networks in Spain are: 1) YouTube, 2) Instagram, 3) Facebook, 4) TikTok, 5) LinkedIn and 6) Twitter. Despite its relatively low ranking, Twitter has over 4 million users in Spain and is the preferred platform to stay up-to-date on current events.23 The Chinese embassy’s Twitter account has over 27,000 followers, and has sent an average of 200 tweets per month since 2019 when the account opened.24
- Content sharing agreements and long-standing ties with local mainstream media: Chinese media like Xinhua, CCTV, and CGTN provide content to media outlets in Spain that frequently use it as part of their news coverage, mostly for video footage or photos. Some Spanish media outlets have content sharing agreements with Chinese media entities. El Mundo Financiero,25 EFE,26 and Europa Press27 have officially signed agreements, while there are other media outlets with no known formal agreement but close links to the PRC, like Prensa Ibérica, a regional newspaper and television group that organizes joint events with the Chinese embassy and disseminates information on the BRI. It is also worth mentioning that Spain’s most important newspaper, El País, occasionally distributes a China Daily insert and disseminates content from China Hoy, a magazine produced by the state-owned China International Publishing Group (CIPG).28
- Op-eds and television interviews by Chinese diplomats: Both the current ambassador representing China in Madrid, Wu Haitao, and his predecessor Lyu Fan, who served from 2014 to 2019, maintained a significant presence in Spanish media, mainly through interviews and occasional statements during events but also with op-eds published in print media to address specific issues. Wu has published 3 op-eds in El Periódico, a Prensa Ibérica newspaper,29 with one of them condemning US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to Taiwan as an infringement of Chinese sovereignty30 . Lyu was more inclined to interviews, including giving some to newspaper La Razón.31
In any case, it is clear that when the Chinese embassy in Spain has something to say, it finds space in local media, even when an official other than the ambassador speaking. For instance, during the first months of the pandemic, Yao Fei, a high-ranking officer in the Madrid embassy, appeared at least in five interviews in different media outlets in less than a month, portraying the way China dealt with the virus as an example to be followed.32
- Press trips for journalists and executives: In 2021, the Chinese government invited 10 journalists from different media outlets from around the world to Xinjiang, among them Javier García, head of the China office of Spanish national news agency EFE. García published a series of articles echoing Beijing’s talking points on that province and questioning more critical reports in other international outlets.33 Several months later, his announcement on social media that he was quitting journalism because of the “information war against China” was picked up and exploited by Chinese state media.34 García is still living in Beijing, and teaches journalism at Renmin University.35 In another demonstration of EFE’s ties with China, the agency’s president, Gabriela Cañas, was invited to make a virtual presentation in 2021 at the World Media Summit, an annual summit of news agencies from around the world that is supported by Xinhua.36
- Cultivating local elites who repeat Beijing’s preferred narratives: Probably the most vocal and prominent Spanish supporter of PRC narratives is former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero from the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), who led Spain’s government from 2004 until 2011. During a 2020 TV interview, Rodríguez Zapatero praised the Chinese COVID policy and stated that “China is producing the decisive medical material to save lives, which is being acquired by all the countries of the world.”37 A year later, he authored an op-ed in China Daily filled with praise for China.38
For the purposes of this report, disinformation is defined as the intentional dissemination of false or misleading content, especially through inauthentic activity—such as the use of fake accounts—on global social media platforms.
Although experts noted that Spain has not been targeted by tailored disinformation campaigns, it has been affected by broader campaigns organized by the Russian and Chinese governments seeking to influence public opinion regarding COVID, democracy, and attitudes toward China. According to Mira Milosevich-Juaristi of the Elcano Royal Institute, it is difficult to measure the impact of disinformation, especially when referring to the narratives promoted by China and disseminated by Russia arguing that authoritarian systems have been more effective at dealing with the pandemic than liberal democratic governments.39
A report published in 2020 by EUvsDisinfo, a project of the European External Action Service’s East StratCom Task Force, shows CGTN YouTube accounts disseminating videos in Spanish and other languages that promote false conspiracy theories regarding the origin of coronavirus in US labs.40 Even the Chinese embassy in Spain shared a tweet by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson calling for investigations into the purported US origin of the virus.41 Though the impact of these kinds of fake information in Spain seems to be low, Maldita.es, a fact checker based in Spain, has detected a large amount of fake news circulating among Spanish social media users related to COVID, the role of China in vaccine production, and the efficacy of Western-made vaccines.42
One of the most successful disinformation campaigns pushed by China worldwide, claiming that the Chinese government built a hospital in 48 hours as an effective response to the COVID pandemic, gained wide purchase in Spanish media.43
The Chinese embassy has promoted the narrative that the PRC is a democracy and a supporter of democratic values, though with low impact on Spain’s population and media. The embassy shared five articles on this subject on its website and social media accounts around the Summit for Democracies hosted virtually by the US in December 2021, which was attended by Taiwan. In these articles, China is presented as a popular democracy, with all the plurality, diversity and popular participation a country needs to qualify as such. The articles make no mention of freedom of expression or the press, freedom of association, or the situation of minorities such as the Uyghurs.44
Other false narratives that have been widely disseminated involve China’s high-tech capabilities,45 as well as a misleading piece showing 26 Chinese people being executed allegedly due to corruption.46 It is sometimes difficult to identify when disinformation has its roots in the PRC’s political considerations, versus when it is the work of individuals trying to protect their homeland’s image.47
Censorship and intimidation
Spain’s most important newspaper, El País, is blocked online in China. So are the news portal El Confidencial and the newspapers ABC and La Razón.48 ABC was blocked in November 202149 after it published one article on the disappearance of people in China50 and another one portraying Xi Jinping as an emperor.51 .
This censorship not only affects Chinese and foreign individuals living in China who are forced to use VPNs to read these news outlets, but also foreign correspondents trying to report in China. Spain has at least seven foreign correspondents working in China, and, according to some of their own testimonies, they are all under permanent surveillance. Pablo Díez, of ABC, has expressed that he sometimes feels like a criminal just for doing his work as a journalist.52 In 2020, Mavi Doñate, of Spanish public radio and television broadcaster Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE), said on social media she was fed up with working under conditions that amounted to harassment, including being prevented from recording video footage or being forced to delete whatever she films, and being surrounded by 10 police officers as soon as she takes out a camera and mic. “It is impossible to work like this,” she posted on Twitter.53
In China, Spanish foreign correspondents are not only censored and prevented from talking to sources, but are also threatened and intimidated. ABC Beijing correspondent Jaime Santirso revealed in a 2022 tweet thread that three police officers had gone to his house looking for him, and, when he was not there, they told his wife to “ask him to provide balanced coverage, showing not only bad but also good news.” Santirso said he considered this to be a “veiled threat.”54
Even Chinese government representatives based in Spain criticize the work of Spanish journalists in Beijing. Díez, the ABC correspondent, denounced the Chinese consul in Barcelona, Zhu Jingyang, for spreading fake news about former Chinese President Hu Jintao returning to his seat to vote during the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022, after Hu had previously been escorted out.55 Zhu replied that Díez was abusing the hospitality of the Chinese people and government, and accused Díez of following “nonexistent and absurd conspiracy theories.”56
Díez is a frequent victim of online harassment in social media due to his reporting about China, but he is not the only target of the attacks from Zhu, who frequently comments on critical Spanish media coverage of China. Newspaper La Vanguardia,57 El País,58 and El Mundo59 have all been accused by Zhu of disseminating disinformation.
Though the Barcelona consul is one of the most confrontational Chinese public officers in Spain, the Chinese embassy in Madrid has also criticized the work of Díez, saying that a profile he wrote of Xi Jinping was “full of ignorance, partiality and lies.”60 Before that, in 2019, the embassy attacked the work of ABC regarding the situation of Hong Kong.61
Control over content distribution infrastructure
China-based companies are not involved in Spain’s digital or cable television infrastructure. However, many China-related tech companies have a sizable market share in Spain that might, under certain conditions, have an impact on content distribution.
Spain is one of 17 countries where studies have detected code used to track and block content62 running on middleboxes—a type of networking device—belonging to Huawei, a Chinese tech company with ties to the CCP.63
In 2020–21, 18.6 percent of all mobile phones sold in Spain were made by Huawei, and sales of Chinese-origin smartphones as a whole (Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo and BQ) represent 42 percent of the market.64 Except for the case of Xiaomi, however, the Chinese companies saw a decline in their global sales from 2020 to 2021.65 It remains unclear if the use of Chinese-produced smartphones affect content distribution.66 However, the PRC’s efforts to expand in the tech industry clearly seem to be aimed at bolstering its state security and surveillance capacity.67
In January 2022, Huawei España named Therese Jamaa as vice president,68 just months before Spain’s Congress of Deputies passed a law establishing cybersecurity requirements for 5G networks.69 When she was appointed to this senior position, Jamaa was dating Spain’s minister of foreign affairs, José Manuel Albares. News outlets raised questions about the implications the minister’s connection to Jamaa as Albares took part in the cabinet meetings to discuss the cybersecurity law. In September, nine months after Huawei hired Jamaa, he was forced to recuse himself from meetings involving Huawei’s interests.70 One such issue before the cabinet was the compilation of a list of companies to be banned under the cybersecurity law from providing 5G services was the case of the list of banned companies—a list that would assumedly include Huawei. However, this list has not been published yet, and it seems that it will never be released.71 In any case, less than two years after joining Huawei, Jamaa announced she was leaving the company to pursue other professional projects.72
Other concerns have been raised regarding the social media service TikTok, a shortform video platform owned by the PRC-based tech company ByteDance. TikTok was the most downloaded app in Spain during 202073 and 2021,74 showing a fast user growth that turned the app into the fourth-most-used social media platform in the country in 2023.75 Political leaders and political parties were no exception to this trend, increasingly using the platform to communicate with the public.76
In February 2023, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council—the three top EU bodies—all banned TikTok on staff devices, citing cybersecurity concerns due to the link between TikTok and the Chinese government.77 However, Spain has not adopted a similar policy, and Prime Minister Sánchez did not mention the issue to Xi Jinping during a state visit to China the following month.78
In 2020, the Zoom Cloud Meetings teleconferencing service was among the most used mobile apps in Spain.79 Although Zoom was based in the United States, researchers had found that it owned Chinese subsidiaries and operated some of its servers in China, potentially leaving it vulnerable if Chinese officials requested access to encryption keys.80 Meanwhile, 2021 and 2022 saw Chinese e-commerce apps Shein and AliExpress expanded in the Spanish market to become among the country’s top ten most downloaded apps.81
Though the presence of Chinese-origin tech companies in Spain is sizable and in some cases growing, there have been no reports of censorship, manipulated content or surveillance.
The most important communications app in China, WeChat, has low penetration in the Spanish market, mainly focused on the Chinese community and Chinese tourists visiting the country.82 This app, owned by China-based Tencent, is also seen as a channel for Spanish businesses to reach Chinese audiences. In 2022, Ni Hao Conecta, a business platform that tries to strengthen the links between China and Spain, opened the first official Spanish account on WeChat.83 The launch event of this new channel featured the presence of a local political leader from the conservative People’s Party (PP), Ángel Niño.
Dissemination of CCP media norms, tactics, or governance models
No known CCP trainings, adoption of journalistic norms, filtering technology, or broadcasting equipment were found in Spain during the coverage period. No Spanish political leader was reported to have been invited to trainings or other meetings during this period, though it is worth mentioning that the two main political parties, the PSOE84 and the PP,85 as well as Podemos and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) on the left,86 have signed memorandums of understanding and cooperation agreements with the CCP and seem to have friendly relations with the Chinese ruling party.87 Before Sánchez visited China in 2023, political leaders from Podemos and the PCE were invited to have meetings with the Chinese Communist Party.88
Chinese diaspora media
The Chinese migrant community in Spain increased significantly after the 1970s from about 5,000 people to approximately 230,000 Chinese nationals living currently in Spain, according to official data;89 . the true number is probably higher, taking into account the number of undocumented immigrants.90 The Chinese population in Spain has grown especially quickly since 1998. There are more than 600 Taiwanese registered in the country.91 No data was found about the Uyghur or Tibetans diasporas or Falun Gong practitioners, although this might be due to those group’s fears of persecution by the Chinese government.92
The Chinese diaspora community is Spain’s biggest Asian migrant group. A growing number of associations and organizations—more than 450 at the local, state, and national levels—mainly focus on economic and business issues, as well as cultural matters.93 Together with the Chinese consulates and embassy, this thriving network of voluntary groups takes part in different cultural events like the celebration of the Chinese New Year. However, they also try to exercise political influence by meeting with Spanish government officials and even ministers to discuss issues related to racism and discrimination94 or to express their opposition to demonstrations taking place against Chinese repression in Tibet.95 These associations were also connected to the nine Chinese police stations identified by Safeguard Defenders in Spain, with the one in Madrid “actively working with Chinese police to engage in covert and illegal policing operations.”96
The Chinese diaspora in Spain operates a number of media outlets—some of them only available in Chinese—that members use to stay connected to their homeland as well as their new home. Not all of them have websites or are digitally available at the time of this research, but diaspora outlets reviewed frequently use information provided by Xinhua and other official sources of information and are in open dialogue with the Chinese embassy and consulates.
Diaspora outlets focus mostly on local issues related to business and cultural affairs, but also touch on more sensitive matters, always following the PRC’s preferred narrative. The frequently run articles and speeches by the ambassador and consuls and republish pieces that originally appeared in Chinese media outlets.
These diaspora media outlets do not reach a wider audience beyond the Chinese community in Spain, and even then their readership is unclear. One such outlet, Lavozchina.com has over 30,000 followers on the popular Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.97
Radio China FM, owned by Dawei Ding, the former Spanish correspondent for the CCP’s official People’s Daily newspaper, serves as a meeting point for the Chinese diaspora on the radio waves.98 It was on this station that Laura González Escallada started connecting Chinese and Spanish businesspeople in what turned into Ni Hao Connecta,99 probably the most important hub for connecting these worlds (and now including Latin America) and also a platform for disseminating CCP narratives.100
Diaspora media outlets in Spain are members of the Global Chinese Media Cooperation Union.101 Although this research did not find any reports of journalists working at these outlets being overtly censored, it is safe to assume that self-censorship abounds.
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- 3Esther Alonso Vaquerizo, “España y China consolidan sus relaciones comerciales después de la pandemia” [Spain and China consolidate their commercial relations after the pandemic], La Nueva España, November 15, 2021, https://www.lne.es/economia/2021/11/15/espana-china-consolidan-relacion….
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- 5Andrés Ortega, “Cooperación tecnológica entre España y China” [Technological cooperation between Spain and China], Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, September 3, 2018, https://media.realinstitutoelcano.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/ari100….
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- 7“Embajada de China en España lamenta falta de objetividad del diario ABC en asuntos de Hong Kong” [Chinese Embassy in Spain regrets lack of objectivity of the ABC newspaper in Hong Kong affairs], Xinhua Español, July 1, 2019, http://spanish.xinhuanet.com/2019-07/01/c_138189844.htm. Previously, in 2017, the Chinese spokesperson for Taiwan affairs stated that the case of Catalonia showed that Taiwan’s independence was ultimately doomed to failure: see Tamara Fariñas, “Cataluña es un ejemplo para China: La independencia de Taiwán, abocada al fracaso” [Catalonia is an example for China: The independence of Taiwan, doomed to failure], El Confidencial, November 15, 2017. https://www.elconfidencial.com/mundo/2017-11-15/independencia-cataluna-….
- 8China Daily (@ChinaDaily), “Separatism will not be tolerated in any countries. #HongKong #香港.,” Twitter, October 15, 2019, https://twitter.com/ChinaDaily/status/1184110427497738240.
- 9“China utiliza la sentencia del 1-O para amenazar a los protagonistas de la revuelta de Hong Kong” [China uses the sentence of October 1st to threaten the protagonists of the revolt in Hong Kong], El Confidencial Digital, October 21, 2019. https://www.elconfidencialdigital.com/articulo/politica/china-utiliza-s….
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- 11“La protesta en Hong Kong impulsa un mensaje independentista” [Protest in Hong Kong drives pro-independence message], El Mundo Financiero, December 5, 2019, https://www.elmundofinanciero.com/noticia/85054/exterior/la-protesta-en….
- 12John Seaman, ed., Covid-19 and Europe-China Relations: A Country-Level Analysis (European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC), April 29, 2020), https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/etnc_special_repor…. The ambassador also wrote op-eds in which he highlighted Chinese’s pandemic response—see Wu Haitao, “Embajador Wu Haitao publica el artículo titulado El PCCh en su senda centenaria de lucha en Prensa Ibérica” [Ambassador Wu Haitao publishes the article entitled The CCP in its centenary path of struggle in Prensa Ibérica], June 16, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/dsxx/dshd/202106/t20210617_9044796.h…—and signaling the level of Spanish-Chinese cooperation on health issues in the pandemic’s initial stage—see Wu Haitao, “El Embajador Wu Haitao Publica Artículo En El Mundo: China y España combaten de la mano la COVID-19 e intensifican conjuntamente las relaciones bilaterales” [Ambassador Wu Haitao publishes an article in El Mundo: China and Spain fight COVID-19 hand in hand and jointly intensify bilateral relations], May 18, 2020, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/dsxx/dshd/202005/t20200518_3414052.h….
- 13“El racismo y la xenofobia contra los chinos se expanden más rápido que el coronavirus” [Racism and xenophobia against the Chinese spread faster than the coronavirus], Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE), February 4, 2020, https://www.rtve.es/noticias/20200204/racismo-xenofobia-contra-chinos-s….
- 14Wu Haitao, “China y España combaten ‘de la mano’ al Covid-19 e intensifican sus relaciones bilaterales” [China and Spain fight Covid-19 ‘hand in hand’ and intensify their bilateral relations], El Mundo, May 18, 2020, https://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2020/05/18/5ec12b16fdddffd6bb8b45b….
- 15Embajada de China en España. “‘Es una enfermedad de la humanidad, no de ninguna nación. @Guangzhou_City está colaborando con @Harvard y @UofT en ensayos clínicos de medicamentos. Ahora…” [“It is a disease of humanity, not of any nation. @Guangzhou_City is collaborating with @Harvard and @UofT on clinical drug trials. Now…], Twitter, February 28, 2020, https://twitter.com/ChinaEmbEsp/status/1233392171816030209.
- 16Arumi, Javier Borràs. “¿Qué busca Sánchez con su viaje a China?” [What is Sánchez looking for with his trip to China?], Ara, March 30, 2023, https://es.ara.cat/politica/busca-sanchez-viaje-china_129_4665044.html.
- 17Mario Esteban, “Tres claves del viaje de Pedro Sánchez a China” [Three keys to Pedro Sánchez’s trip to China], April 3, 2023. https://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/blog/tres-claves-del-viaje-de-pedro….
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- 20“Entrevista a Dawei Ding, el creador de China FM, la primera emisora de radio en Europa que emite 24 horas al día en chino mandarín” [Interview with Dawei Ding, the creator of China FM, the first radio station in Europe that broadcasts 24 hours a day in Mandarin Chinese], Guia de la Radio, October 1, 2018, http://guiadelaradio.com/entrevista-a-dawei-ding-el-creador-de-china-fm….
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- 27“Xinhua y Europa Press presentan su acuerdo de colaboración, ‘un canal de difusión privilegiado’ para España en China” [Xinhua and Europa Press present their collaboration agreement, “a privileged broadcast channel” for Spain in China], Europa Press, October 25, 2019, https://www.europapress.es/sociedad/noticia-xinhua-europa-press-present….
- 28“ChinaWatch,” El País, https://chinawatch.elpais.com/.
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- 30Wu Haitao, “La visita de Nancy Pelosi a Taiwán y la posición de China” [Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and China’s position], El Periódico, August 4, 2022, https://www.elperiodico.com/es/opinion/20220804/visita-nancy-pelosi-tai….
- 31H. Montero, “El embajador de China en España: ‘EEUU quiere contener el desarrollo de China con la fricción comercial’” [The Chinese ambassador to Spain: “The US wants to contain China's development with trade friction”] La Razón, August 19, 2019, https://www.larazon.es/economia/el-embajador-de-china-en-espana-ee-uu-q….
- 32“Entrevista a Yao Fei, ministro consejero de la Embajada china en Madrid: ‘Algunos gobiernos han actuado de forma muy excesiva ante el coronavirus’” [Yao Fei, chargé d‘affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Madrid: “Some governments have acted excessively in the face of the coronavirus”], Onda Cero, February 24, 2020, https://www.ondacero.es/programas/mas-de-uno/audios-podcast/entrevistas…; Telediarios de TVE (@telediario_tve), “Yao Fei, ministro consejero de la Embajada de China: ‘Todavía no es hora de cantar victoria, nos queda un camino largo por recorrer para llegar al final de la lucha…” [Yao Fei, chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy: “It is not yet time to claim victory, we have a long way to go to reach the end of the fight…], Twitter, March 18, 2020, https://twitter.com/telediario_tve/status/1240377760964640768; “Yao Fei, responsable de Negocios de la Embajada China: ‘Tomará tiempo comprobar la seguridad y eficacia de la vacuna’” [Yao Fei, commercial attaché of the Chinese Embassy: “It will take time to verify the safety and efficacy of the vaccine”], laSexta, March 18, 2020, https://www.lasexta.com/programas/al-rojo-vivo/entrevistas/yao-fei-resp…; Virginia Carrasco, “Entrevista con Yao Fei, el encargado de Negocios de la Embajada de China” [Interview with Yao Fei, the commercial attaché of the Chinese Embassy], El Correo, February 15, 2020, https://www.elcorreo.com/internacional/asia/entrevista-encargado-negoci….
- 33Javier García, “Algodón de Xinjiang: ¿trabajadores forzosos o voluntarios?” [Xinjiang Cotton: Forced or Volunteer Laborers?], Observatorio de la Política China [OPCh], May 4, 2021, https://politica-china.org/areas/autonomias/algodon-de-xinjiang-trabaja….
- 34Xinhua, “Spanish Reporter’s Frustration over Absurd Anti-China Drama Draws Echoes,” China Daily, September 30, 2021, https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202109/30/WS61551dc7a310cdd39bc6c8f9.ht….
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- 37“Zapatero, sobre el cese de la actividad no esencial: ‘Para que la economía se recupere, tenemos que controlar la pandemia’” [Zapatero, on the cessation of non-essential activity: “For the economy to recover, we have to control the pandemic”], laSexta, March 30, 2020, https://www.lasexta.com/programas/al-rojo-vivo/entrevistas/zapatero-sob….
- 38José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, “Global China for a Shared Future of Certainties and Hope,” China Daily, March 29, 2021, http://epaper.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202103/29/WS60610540a31099a234354f9b….
- 39Mira Milosevich-Juaristi, “¿Por qué hay que analizar y comprender las campañas de desinformación de China y Rusia sobre el COVID-19?” ([Why do we need toanalyze and understand disinformation campaigns from China and Russia on Covid-19?]) Elcano Royal Institute, April 30th, 2020.
- 40“The Secret Labs Conspiracy: A Converging Narrative.” EUvsDisinfo, July 6, 2020, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/the-secret-labs-conspiracy-a-converging-narrativ….
- 41Embajada de China en España (@ChinaEmbEsp), “¿Por qué no envían expertos de la OMS para investigarlo? Los CDC de [“Flag: United States” emoji] estiman que esta temporada la gripe ha dejado +- 36 mill. de infectados y 22,000 muertes. Su director admitió que algunos…” [Why don't they send WHO experts to investigate it? The [“Flag: United States” emoji] CDC estimates that this season the flu has left +- 36 million of infected and 22,000 deaths. Their director admitted that some…], Twitter, March 20, 2020, https://twitter.com/ChinaEmbEsp/status/1241052218935128068.
- 42“No, la vacuna de Pfizer no ha sido elaborada en China y esta foto es de un inhalador” [No, the Pfizer vaccine was not made in China and this photo is of an inhaler], Maldita.es, December 29, 2020, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20201229/no-la-vacuna-de-pfizer-no-ha-si….
- 43“No, este hospital de China no ha sido construido ‘en 48 horas’” [No, this hospital in China was not built ‘in 48 hours’], Maldita.es, January 31, 2020, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20200131/no-este-hospital-de-china-no-ha….
- 44“Tres comentarios sobre la ‘Cumbre por la Democracia’” [Three comments on the ‘Summit for Democracy’], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 16, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211216_10470215.htm; “Pregunta 1: ¿Es China una democracia?” [Question 1: Is China a democracy?], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 10, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211210_10466031.htm; “Pregunta 2: ¿Cuáles son las garantías institucionales de la democracia en China?” [Question 2: What are the institutional guarantees of democracy in China?], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 10, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211210_10466032.htm; “Pregunta 3: ¿Cómo democracia en China beneficia al pueblo chino?” [Question 3: How does democracy in China benefit the Chinese people?], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 10, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211210_10466622.htm; “Pregunta 4: ¿Cómo la población china expresa sus opiniones?” [Question 4: How do the Chinese people express their opinions?], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 10, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211210_10466623.htm. And, “Pregunta 5: ¿Cómo China promueve la democratización de las relaciones internacionales?” [Question 5: How does China promote the democratization of international relations?], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 10, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211210_10466624.htm.
- 45“No, la niña que aparece en este vídeo no es una ‘muñeca androide’ fabricada en China” [No, the girl in this video is not an “android doll” made in China], Maldita.es, February 18, 2020, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20200218/muneca-androide-china-nina/; “No, los protagonistas de este baile no son ‘robots fabricados en China’: es un bulo” [No, the protagonists of this dance are not "robots made in China": it is a hoax], Maldita.es, February 27, 2023, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20230227/robots-baile-china-video-bulo/.
- 46“No, esta imagen no es de ‘26 políticos corruptos’ ejecutados en China” [No, this image is not of ‘26 corrupt politicians’ executed in China], Maldita.es, June 18, 2019, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20190618/no-esta-imagen-no-es-de-26-poli….
- 47“¿Qué sabemos sobre la supuesta acusación de China a España de ser el origen del coronavirus?” [What do we know about China's alleged accusation of Spain of being the origin of the coronavirus?], Maldita.es, July 7, 2020, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20200707/china-acusa-espana-origen-coron…; “No, China no ha encontrado una vacuna que cura el coronavirus que se va a repartir ‘en pocos días’” [No, China has not found a vaccine that cures the coronavirus that will be distributed “in a few days”], Maldita.es, March 18, 2020, https://maldita.es/malditobulo/20200318/china-vacuna-coronavirus/.
- 48According to a verification made on June 21, 2023 at “Test if a site is blocked in China,” Comparitech, https://www.comparitech.com/privacy-security-tools/blockedinchina/
- 49Pablo M. Díez, “ABC Is Censored in China after Publishing Features on Xi Jinping and Forced Disappearances,” ABC, November 29, 2021, https://www.abc.es/internacional/abci-abc-censored-china-after-publishi….
- 50Pablo M. Díez, “Anyone Can Disappear in China,” ABC, November 29, 2021, https://www.abc.es/internacional/abci-anyone-disappear-china-2021112919….
- 51Pablo M. Díez, “Xi Jinping, China’s ‘Red Emperor,’” ABC, November 29, 2021. https://www.abc.es/internacional/abci-jinping-chinas-emperor-2021112919….
- 52Corresponsales de Paz, “Pablo Díez: la censura en China,” YouTube video, May 20, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK04nwBKkAw.
- 53Cadena Ser, “La corresponsal de TVE en China estalla por la censura con el COVID-19: ‘Te hacen borrar todo’” [The TVE correspondent in China explodes due to censorship with COVID-19: “They make you delete everything”], Cadena SER, June 15, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20200617031801/https://cadenaser.com/ser/20….
- 54Jaime Santirso, “La noche (20:00) antes del comienzo de la Asamblea Nacional Popular —la cita política anual más importante en China— tres policías acudieron a mi casa en Pekín…” [The night (20:00) before the start of the National People’s Congress—the most important annual political event in China—three policemen came to my home in Beijing…], Twitter, March 8, 2022, https://twitter.com/jsantirso/status/1501175557865807873.
- 55Pablo M. Díez (@PabloDiez_ABC), “Caso para @malditobulo, @MalditoDato y @maldita. Aquí se difunde un bulo porque #hujintao no volvió tras ser sacado de la clausura del Congreso del Partido #Comunista…” [Case for @malditobulo, @MalditoDato and @maldita. Here a hoax is being spread because #hujintao did not return after being removed from the closure of the Communist Party Congress], Twitter, October 23, 2022, https://twitter.com/PabloDiez_ABC/status/1584225967462940672.
- 56Zhu Jingyang (@zhu_jingyang), “Contra mi voluntad, confieso otra verdad sobre useted: Su única venteja respecto a mí es seguir abusando la hospitalidad del pueblo y gobierno chinos…” [Against my will, I confess another truth about you: His only advantage over me is to continue abusing the hospitality of the Chinese people and government…], Twitter, October 23, 2022, https://twitter.com/zhu_jingyang/status/1584208210835435521.
- 57Zhu Jingyang (@zhu_jingyang), “La extraña lógica del autor: criticar la existencia de ciertos problemas y a la vez los intentos de resolverlos! Hacer o no hacer, tienes la culpa, porque…” [The strange logic of the author: criticize the existence of certain problems and at the same time the attempts to solve them! To do or not to do, you are to blame, because…], Twitter, October 5, 2021, https://twitter.com/zhu_jingyang/status/1445416388101873670.
- 58Zhu Jingyang (@zhu_jingyang), “En su narrativa, trata de confundir la ofensiva y la defensa, y la defensa propia con la busqueda de hegemonía. Pero cómo? Simplemente tergiversa la cronología…” [In his narrative, he tries to confuse offense and defense, and self-defense with the search for hegemony. But how? Simply twist the chronology…], Twitter, October 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/zhu_jingyang/status/1453291730527264783.
- 59Zhu Jingyang (@zhu_jingyang), “Siempre husmeando a ‘alguno que otro disidente’ o a quienes se sienten ‘víctimas’, para presentar trivialidades como ‘grandes noticias’ o ‘descontento general’…” Twitter, December 13, 2021, https://twitter.com/zhu_jingyang/status/1470320451238907905.
- 60“La visión de china sobre la democracia y otros temas importantes” [China’s vision on democracy and other important issues], Embajada de la República Popular China en el Reino de España, December 1, 2021, http://es.china-embassy.gov.cn/esp/sghd/202112/t20211201_10460646.htm.
- 61“Falta de Objetividad,” Xinhua.
- 62Valentin Weber and Vasilis Verberis, “China’s Surveillance State: A Global Project,” Top10VPN, August 3, 2021, https://www.top10vpn.com/research/huawei-china-surveillance-state/.
- 63Noah Berman, Lindsay Maizland, and Andrew Chatzky, “Is China’s Huawei a Threat to U.S. National Security?,” Council on Foreign Relations, February 8, 2023, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-huawei-threat-us-national-secur….
- 64Rosa Fernández, “Distribución porcentual de las ventas de teléfonos móviles y smartphones en España en 2020 y 2021, por fabricante” [Percentage distribution of mobile phone and smartphone sales in Spain in 2020 and 2021, by manufacturer], Statista, February 15, 2022, https://web.archive.org/web/20220701043820/https://es.statista.com/esta….
- 65Javier Pastor, “La venta de smartphones ha entrado en su depresión más profunda (y no va a remontar a corto plazo)” [The sale of smartphones has entered its deepest depression (and it will not recover in the short term)], Xataka, January 18, 2023, https://www.xataka.com/moviles/venta-smartphones-ha-entrado-su-depresio….
- 66Ray Shaw, “Are Chinese-Made Smartphones Spying on Me?,” Cybershack, August 18, 2022, https://cybershack.com.au/opinion/are-chinese-made-smartphones-spying-o….
- 67Ian Tucker, “Why You Should Worry If You Have a Chinese Smartphone,” Guardian, October 26, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/26/china-technology-soc….
- 68“Therese Jamaa, nueva vicepresidenta de Huawei España” [Therese Jamaa, new vice president of Huawei España], Huawei, January 13, 2022, press release, https://www.huawei.com/es/news/es/2022/therese-jamaa-nueva-vicepresiden….
- 69“El Congreso convalida por amplia mayoría la Ley de Ciberseguridad 5G” [Congress validates by a large majority the 5G Cybersecurity Law], La Moncloa, press release, April 28, 2022, https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/serviciosdeprensa/notasprensa/asuntos-econ….
- 70Antonio Rodríguez, “Albares, obligado a inhibirse en los temas de Huawei por su relación con una ejecutiva” [Albares, forced to inhibit himself on Huawei issues due to his relationship with an executive], The Objective, September 27, 2022, https://theobjective.com/espana/2022-09-27/relacion-albares-huawei/.
- 71Miguel González, “El Gobierno da largas a la lista negra de proveedores de 5G para evitar un choque con China” [The Government delays the blacklist of 5G providers to avoid a clash with China], El País, January 4, 2023, https://elpais.com/espana/2023-01-04/el-gobierno-da-largas-a-la-lista-n….
- 72Marcos Sierra, “Therese Jamaa, pareja del ministro Albares, abandona Huawei” [Therese Jamaa, partner of Minister Albares, leaves Huawei], Vozpópuli, May 8, 2023, https://www.vozpopuli.com/economia_y_finanzas/therese-jamaa-pareja-alba….
- 73“Las 10 apps más descargadas en España en 2020” [The 10 most downloaded apps in Spain in 2020], Marca, December 9, 2020, https://www.marca.com/tiramillas/actualidad/2020/12/09/5fd0b428e2704ec4….
- 74“¿Cuáles son las apps más usadas en España?” [What are the most used apps in Spain?], Progresa Formación, March 28, 2022. https://cieep.com/cuales-son-las-apps-mas-usadas-en-espana/.
- 75“Estadísticas uso de redes sociales en 2023 (informe España y mundo)” [Statistics on the use of social networks in 2023 (Spain and world report)], Una Vida Online. accessed August 28, 2023, https://unavidaonline.com/estadisticas-redes-sociales/.
- 76Noemí Morejón-Llamas, “Política española en TikTok: Del aterrizaje a la consolidación de la estrategia comunicativa” [Spanish politics on TikTok: From landing to consolidating the communication strategy], Revista Prisma Social, no. 40 (January 30, 2023): 238–61.
- 77Xiaofei Xu, Eve Brennan, and James Frater, “EU Bans TikTok from Official Devices across All Three Government Institutions,” CNN, March 1, 2023, https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/28/tech/tiktok-eu-ban-intl-hnk/index.ht….
- 78Carlos del Castillo, “España evita señalar a TikTok y Huawei y elude la presión china en el viaje de Sánchez a Pekín” [Spain avoids pointing fingers at TikTok and Huawei and evades Chinese pressure on Sánchez’s trip to Beijing], elDiario.es, March 30, 2023, https://www.eldiario.es/tecnologia/espana-evita-senalar-tiktok-huawei-e….
- 79Mónica Mena Roa, “TikTok, la app más descargada en España” [TikTok, the most downloaded app in Spain], Daily Data, Statista, December 9, 2020, https://es.statista.com/grafico/22369/numero-de-descargas-de-apps-en-es….
- 80Micah Lee, “Zoom’s Encryption Is ‘Not Suited for Secrets’ and Has Surprising Links to China, Researchers Discover,” Intercept, April 3, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/04/03/zooms-encryption-is-not-suited-for-….
- 81“Las apps más usadas,” Progresa Formación.
- 82“WeChat, la vía para llegar al consumidor chino” [WeChat, the way to reach the Chinese consumer], Labelium, November 27, 2019, https://www.labelium.com/blog/es/wechat-consumidor-chino/.
- 83“Ni Hao Conecta, the First Spanish Communication Platform with an Official Account on WeChat, China’s Largest Social Network,” Atalayar Between Two Shores, October 13, 2022, https://www.atalayar.com/en/articulo/economy-and-business/ni-hao-conect….
- 84“El PSOE y el Partido Comunista Chino acuerdan seguir fortaleciendo sus relaciones” [The PSOE and the Chinese Communist Party agree to continue strengthening their relations], Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), accessed July 6, 2023, https://www.psoe.es/actualidad/noticias-actualidad/el-psoe-y-el-partido….
- 85“Cospedal firma un memorando de colaboración con el Partido Comunista Chino” [Cospedal signs a collaboration memorandum with the Chinese Communist Party], Público, April 23, 2013, https://www.publico.es/internacional/cospedal-firma-memorando-colaborac….
- 86Wu Sixuan, “El presidente del PCE alenta el esfuerzo mundial por fomentar el encuentro y la cooperación entre todos los pueblos y culturas” [The president of the PCE encourages the global effort to promote encounter and cooperation between all peoples and cultures], Mundo Obrero, April 27, 2023, https://mundoobrero.es/2023/04/27/el-presidente-del-pce-alenta-el-esfue….
- 87Elentir, “Algunos datos sobre la influencia del Partido Comunista de China en el Gobierno de España,” Contando Estrelas (blog), January 12, 2021, https://www.outono.net/elentir/2021/01/12/algunos-datos-sobre-la-influe….
- 88Ángel Carreño, “El Partido Comunista invita a China a cargos de Podemos y del PCE como previa al viaje de Sánchez” [The Communist Party invites China to positions of Podemos and the PCE as prior to Sánchez's trip], El Independiente, March 24, 2023, https://www.elindependiente.com/espana/2023/03/24/el-partido-comunista-….
- 89“La comunidad china en España, en datos y estadísticas” [The Chinese community in Spain, in data and statistics], EpData, December 8, 2021, https://www.epdata.es/datos/comunidad-china-espana-datos-estadisticas/2….
- 90Cruz Morcillo, “Una mafia china ganó 5 millones comprando contratos de trabajo fraudulentos a empresarios vascos” [A Chinese mafia earned 5 million buying fraudulent work contracts from Basque businessmen], ABC, January 18, 2022, https://www.abc.es/espana/abci-mafia-china-gano-5-millones-comprando-co…; “Las rutas ilegales que utilizan las mafias chinas para continuar trayendo inmigrantes a España” [The illegal routes used by Chinese mafias to continue bringing immigrants to Spain], El Confidencial, July 7, 2013, https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2013-07-07/las-rutas-ilegales-que….
- 91Teresa Romero, “Number of foreigners from Asian countries registered in Spain in 2021, by country,” Statista, October 21, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20220522082431/https://www.statista.com/sta….
- 92Daniele Grasso. “Un uigur en España: ‘No puedo hablar con mis familiares en Xinjiang por miedo a que les pase algo’” [A Uyghur in Spain: “I can’t talk to my relatives in Xinjiang for fear of something happening to them”], El País, November 27, 2019, https://elpais.com/internacional/2019/11/26/actualidad/1574790231_85936….
- 93Wang Zigang, “Associationism of the Chinese diaspora in Spain: an analysis based on Bigdata and text mining,” Sinología hispánica, China Studies Review 12, no. 1 (August 17, 2021): 131–60, https://doi.org/10.18002/sin.v12i1.7108.
- 94Liwai, “Hoy nuestra compañera Xirou Xiao en representación de Liwai y Red de diáspora china ha asistido a la reunión convocada por el Ministerio de Igualdad, en el marco…” Facebook, December 17, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/liwaiai/posts/1515113032020751/?locale=zh_HK.
- 95“西班牙华侨华人社团联谊总会与加区政府相关部门沟通说明西藏真相” [The Federation of Overseas Chinese and Chinese Associations in Spain communicated with the relevant departments of the Canadian government to clarify the truth about Tibet], Lavozchina.com, August 31, 2019, https://www.lavozchina.com/portal.php?mod=view&aid=145881.
- 96"Chinese overseas police service stations tied to illegal policing in Madrid and Belgrade" Safeguard Defenders, September 15, 2022. https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/chinese-overseas-police-service-…
- 97“Ouhua.info,” Weibo, accessed July 7, 2023, https://www.weibo.com/ouhuabao?tabtype=home.
- 98“Conocemos el corazón de ‘China FM’, la primera emisora creada para los chinos en Europa” [We know the heart of ‘China FM,’ the first station created for the Chinese in Europe], TeleMadrid, February 2, 2022, https://www.telemadrid.es/programas/madrid-directo/China-FM-radio-Ano-N….
- 99“Ni Hao Conecta: consultora de asuntos públicos” [Ni Hao Conecta: Public affairs consultant], Ni Hao Conecta, accessed August 29, 2023, https://nihaoconecta.com/?page_id=237.
- 100KK, “‘中国、西班牙、伊比利亚美洲：企业国际化论坛’在马德里成功举办” [“‘China, Spain, Ibero-America: Business Internationalization Forum’ was successfully held in Madrid], Weixin Official Accounts Platform, March 23, 2022, https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/3OqYBkzyMIK7nTTmvA0_iQ.
- 101“世界华文媒体合作联盟” [Global Chinese Media Cooperation Union], accessed August 29, 2023, https://www.gcmcu.com/web/LMCY/index.html.
Underlying media resilience
- Press freedom: Spain still maintains a robust freedom of the press. The country ranks 36th globally according to Reporters Without Borders, though its standing has been in decline since 2019, when it was ranked 29th.1 This is mainly explained by the deteriorating labor situation of journalists.2 The media environment is pluralistic, constitutional protections of freedom of expression and the right to public communication are strong, and there are a good number of civil society organizations both at the national and local levels that work to monitor, defend, and promote freedom of the press and expression.
- Fact-checking: Four Spanish fact-checkers are signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) Code of Principles.3 All four are respected sources of information and very active on social media, monitoring information that circulates on the World Wide Web, as well as on Whatsapp and other messaging apps. In 2021, work by the independent nonprofit EU DisinfoLab called attention to attempts by certain social media channels to appropriate the names and logos of some of these fact-checkers to undermine their credibility and spread fake news.4
- The importance of foreign correspondents: Many Spanish media outlets have their own foreign correspondents in China. This contributes to a better understanding of the actual situation in China. During COVID lockdowns, these correspondents were very vocal in questioning not only the restrictive policy towards Chinese citizens, but also the limits imposed by Chinese authorities on journalists’ work. Many media outlets still use the cheap information provided by Xinhua and other PRC official news outlets. However, China-related information is still presented critically and sometimes with a level of sarcasm on TV and in the digital space, not hesitating to call the Chinese regime an autocracy.
There are some media outlets or multimedia groups like Prensa Ibérica that report on China only when it is related to business issues and always with a positive tilt, but their reach is limited.
- The political impact of international organizations: Spain is still considered one of China’s best friends in Europe, although its long-standing and fruitful diplomatic relationship has deteriorated since the 2010s. Recently, Spain has preferred to stand by EU decisions regarding China. Spain has also stood with its fellow members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in expressing concern about China’s growing influence, and the alliance addressed those worries at a summit hosted in 2022 in Madrid.5 EU, NATO and US concerns about China’s geopolitical role have motivated interest from Spanish civil society to better understand China’s impact in Spain. Spanish leaders, on the other hand, prefer to avoid any kind of confrontation with China, preferring to focus on economic and trade issues.
- Civil society concern about China: Over the last several years, many think tanks have started focusing more on the “China issue” in Spain. From the Elcano Royal Institute to the Fundación para el Análisis y los Estudios Sociales (FAES) to Fundación Alternativas, they have dedicated resources to shedding light on Spain’s relationship with China. These institutes express diverse points of view on China, but do not directly replicate the PRC’s narrative on sensitive issues.
The prestigious Safeguard Defenders, one of the most active organizations in the world researching and informing society about the human rights situation in China and China’s influence abroad, is based in Madrid, and likely is better able to communicate with the Spanish audience than if it were located elsewhere.
- 1“Clasificación mundial” [World classification], Reporteros Sin Fronteras, accessed August 29, 2023, https://www.rsf-es.org/informes/clasificacion-mundial/.
- 2“La Libertad de Prensa en España retrocede cuatro puestos” [Freedom of the Press in Spain falls four places], La Vanguardia, May 3, 2023, https://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20230503/8939405/libertad-prensa-espa….
- 3“Commit to Transparency—Sign Up for the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles,” Poynter Institute, accessed August 29, 2023, https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/.
- 4“Antagonising Fact-Checkers: The Misappropriation of Fact-Checking to Polarise the Spanish Informational Landscape,” EU DisinfoLab, July 15, 2021, https://www.disinfo.eu/publications/antagonising-fact-checkers-the-misa….
- 5“Madrid Summit Declaration Issued by NATO Heads of State and Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Madrid 29 June 2022 ,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), June 29, 2022, press release, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_196951.htm.
- Weakening media environment: Lack of ownership transparency represents a risk to the political independence of media outlets, in turn contributing to increasing polarization in society. Market concentration, especially in TV and digital media, and concerns over economic viability also posed threats to Spain’s media.1
- Legal framework: Though the constitution recognizes the rights to public communication and freedom of expression, several legislative reforms have made international organizations worry about the state of these freedoms in Spain. These organizations include the UN Human Rights Council2 and the European Commission,3 which in 2020 both raised concerns about some restrictions to freedom of expression regarding defamation (a crime that could be punished with imprisonment), especially regarding information about the royal family.
- Increasingly distrustful and news-wary users: Although some brands are seeing an increase in trust from their audiences, a study released by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University in 2023 showed a record high of 40 percent of Spanish people surveyed said they distrusted the news.4 Only 22 percent of those surveyed said they trusted the internet as a source of information, according to a different Eurobarometer survey, and more than 80 percent considered disinformation to be a problem.5
- Questionable official efforts to combat disinformation: In response to a request from the European Union for member states to step up their fight against disinformation, Spain established a Permanent Commission to Fight against Disinformation.6 However, the commission was harshly criticized for being too tightly controlled by the government and influenced by official bias, and for its opaque membership.7
In 2022, a Barcelona court convicted someone for dissemination of fake news through social media for the first time, after the defendant published a video on Twitter that supposedly depicted a Moroccan youth attacking a lady in the streets of Canet de Mar in order to defame immigrants. (The defendant was also convicted of committing a hate crime.) The video actually showed an attack that took place in China, and had been released by Chinese police to try to find the aggressor.8
- Political actors keen on dealing with PRC: Spain is still considered to be one of China’s best friends in Europe. Though this relationship has deteriorated over the last few years, political leaders across the spectrum still see China as a country of opportunities,9 a potential partner,10 and a legitimate voice to be listened to.11 In one demonstration of the possible impact of this relationship, in 2014, the Spanish government adopted reforms limiting the country’s universal jurisdiction policy—which gave Spanish courts jurisdiction over human rights violations, even if they were committed outside of Spanish territory or by non-Spanish perpetrators—that resulted in a case against Chinese leaders for the genocide in Tibet being dropped. At the time, Spain was in dire straits economically and China was seen as being able to provide assistance.12 The two main political parties have both maintained consistent dialogue and good relations with the CCP, and in the past the Chinese government has invited Spanish political leaders on trips to China.13 Journalists have been invited on similar trips. Still, the impact on society is low.
- Universities as a soft power tool: Spanish political leaders’ interest in and openness to China is mirrored in the country’s universities. Almost every university in Spain has some kind of agreement with at least one Chinese university, often facilitating student exchanges, scholarships, and joint research and development. Universities also have agreements with private Chinese companies such as Huawei14 to establish labs or do research.15 As with Spanish political leaders, universities have not expressed significant concern about the security implications of these deals, not even within the framework of the European Union’s dispute with China.16
- 1Pere Massip et al., “Monitoring Media Pluralism in the Digital Era: Application of the Media Pluralism Monitor in the European Union, Albania, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia & Turkey in the Year 2020: Country Report: Spain,” European University Institute, July 2021, https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/71963/spain_results_mpm_202….
- 2United Nations Human Rights Council, “Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Spain,” A/HRC/WG.6/35/L.4 (January 24, 2020), https://news.un.org/es/sites/news.un.org.es/files/atoms/files/275_recom….
- 3“Commission Staff Working Document: 2020 Rule of Law Report: Country Chapter on the Rule of Law Situation in Spain: Accompanying the Document: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: 2020 Rule of Law Report: The Rule of Law Situation in the European,” European Commission, September 30, 2020, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1602579986149&uri=C….
- 4Alfonso Vara et al., “Spain,” Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, June 14, 2023, https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/digital-news-report/2023/spa….
- 5Paula Boira and Laura Navarro Soler, “El 82% de los españoles cree que la desinformación es un problema en el país, según el Eurobarómetro” [82% of Spaniards believe that disinformation is a problem in the country, according to Eurobarometer], Newtral, April 8, 2022, https://www.newtral.es/desinformacion-espana-eurobarometro/20220408/.
- 6“La lucha contra la desinformación” Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Unión Europea y Cooperación, accessed July 10, 2023, https://www.exteriores.gob.es/es/PoliticaExterior/Paginas/LaLuchaContra….
- 7“Spain’s Disinformation Battle Plan in the Dock,” Euractiv, November 18, 2020, https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/spains-disinformation-bat….
- 8Julia F. Cadenas, “15 meses de cárcel: la primera condena en España tras difundir ‘fake news’ para denigrar a los menores no acompañados” [15 months in prison: the first sentence in Spain after spreading 'fake news' to denigrate unaccompanied minors], Newtral, November 8, 2022, https://www.newtral.es/condena-difundir-fake-news/20221108/.
- 9Alejandro Santos, “¿Influye China en la economía y política españolas?” [Does China influence the Spanish economy and politics?], El Confidencial Digital, October 4, 2021, https://www.elconfidencialdigital.com/articulo/te_lo_aclaro/influye-chi….
- 10Javier Borràs, “¿Hacia dónde van las relaciones España-China?” [Where are Spain-China relations headed?], El País, March 30, 2023, https://elpais.com/opinion/2023-03-30/hacia-donde-van-las-relaciones-es….
- 11Eugenio Bregolat, “Cincuenta años de relaciones diplomáticas entre España y China” [Fifty years of diplomatic relations between Spain and China], Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, March 7, 2023, https://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/cincuenta-anos-de-relacion….
- 12“‘Las presiones de China han sido el detonante del cambio de la jurisdicción universal’” [“The pressures from China have been the trigger for the change of universal jurisdiction”], Nueva Tribuna, February 12, 2014, https://www.nuevatribuna.es/articulo/espana/jpd-reforma-jurisdiccion-un….
- 13Ángel Carreño,“El Partido Comunista invita a China a cargos de Podemos y del PCE como previa al viaje de Sánchez” [The Communist Party invites Podemos and PCE officials to China prior to Sánchez’s trip], El Independiente, March 24, 2023, https://www.elindependiente.com/espana/2023/03/24/el-partido-comunista-….
- 14“ULE y Huawei firman un acuerdo de colaboración para impulsar la formación digital” [ULE and Huawei sign a collaboration agreement to promote digital training], Universidad de León,” January 31, 2023, https://www.unileon.es/noticias/ule-y-huawei-firman-un-acuerdo-de-colab….
- 15“Huawei y la UPM firman el acuerdo de colaboración del proyecto ‘Liderando la Era LTE’” [Huawei and the UPM sign the collaboration agreement of the project “Leading the LTE Era”], Huawei, March 19, 2014, press release, https://www.huawei.com/es/news/es/2014/hw-329758.
- 16Darío Ojeda and María Zuil, “¿Prestigio o riesgo? La universidad española se lanza a la barra libre de convenios con China” [Prestige or risk? The Spanish university launches into the open bar of agreements with China], El Confidencial, May 24, 2022, https://www.elconfidencial.com/mundo/2022-05-24/china-universidades-esp….
At the beginning of the 2000s, the Spanish population wary about the Chinese mainly due its generally protectionist attitudes. People in Spain saw Chinese competition with Spanish products as a threat, but there was no animus toward the Chinese people in particular.1
According to a BBC World Service Country Ratings Poll in 2006, 45 percent of the Spanish population considered China’s influence on the world to be mainly positive, while 32 percent considered that was mainly negative (13 points difference). However, since the international economic crisis of 2009, Spanish attitudes toward China worsened dramatically. By 2013, attitudes had flip-flopped, with 68 percent of respondents now holding a negative view of China versus only 13 percent holding a positive view. Mario Esteban, a researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute and the Autonomous University of Madrid’s Centre for East Asian Studies, concluded that “the main reason to explain this abrupt reversal is a widespread view in Spain that Chinese competition is to blame for the loss of a significant number of jobs by Spanish nationals. On the contrary, economic and political elites in Spain tend to focus more on the opportunities presented by the economic development of China.”2
The growing right-wing political party Vox, which despite losses in July 2023 parliamentary elections still controls the third-largest number of seats in the Congress, has criticized China.3 So has the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV),4 which as a representative of Spain’s Basque minority is sensitive to the human rights situation of minorities in China.
While there have been some fluctuations, Spanish attitudes towards China have continued on average at about the same unfavorable levels since 2013.5 This even stayed true during the worst stages of COVID infections in Spain, when China deployed what was called mask diplomacy, sending masks, tests and other health-related materials to Spain and other European countries. This aid could have improved the image the Spanish people had of China, but it was overshadowed by defective medical equipment from China that began to emerge in Spain at the same time. Though the PRC tried to explain that defective materials came from black-market sellers rather than official sources, Chinese-produced health products all blurred together in the public perception, and there was no significant improvement in Spanish opinions of China.6
According to an opinion survey carried out by the Elcano Royal Institute in March 2020 during the pandemic’s early days, Spanish people increasingly saw a threat from China of not only economic competition but the spread of disease, compared to two years earlier. All the same, the Spanish people still considered China as their second-most preferred ally outside the European Union, behind only the United States.7 In any case, Spain still held one of the most positive views about China in Europe in 2020,8 though in 2022 Spanish sentiment about China’s influence on global affairs fell to the average for countries in the transatlantic community.9
- 1Javier Noya, “Sombras chinescas: un análisis de la imagen de China en España” [Chinese shadows: an analysis of the image of China in Spain], Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, September 28, 2005, https://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/sombras-chinescas-un-anali….
- 2Mario Esteban, “Spain’s Relations with China: Friends but Not Partners,” Chinese Political Science Review 1, 373–386 (2016), https://doi.org/10.1007/s41111-016-0019-x.
- 3Alejandro López de Miguel, “Abascal se ‘disfraza’ de Trump: señala a China como ‘amenaza’ y responsable del virus y a Vox como víctima del Gobierno,” [Abascal ‘disguises’ himself as Trump: he points to China as a “threat” and responsible for the virus and Vox as a victim of the Government] Público, October 21, 2020, https://www.publico.es/politica/abascal-disfraza-trump-senala-china-ame….
- 4“Agradecimiento del Gobierno de la República de China (Taiwán) al Congreso de los Diputados de España por la aprobación de una Proposición no de Ley sobre la situación de tensión en el Estrecho de Taiwán” [Thanks from the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Spanish Congress of Deputies for the approval of a Non-Law Proposal on the tense situation in the Taiwan Strait], Oficina Económica y Cultural de Taipei, España, October 20, 2022, press release, https://www.roc-taiwan.org/es_es/post/31227.html.
- 5“Global Indicators Database,” Pew Research Center, March 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/database/indicator/24/country/ES.
- 6Anna Solé Sans, “¿Qué es la diplomacia china de las mascarillas?” [What is Chinese mask diplomacy?], El Nacional.cat, May 31, 2020, https://www.elnacional.cat/es/internacional/que-es-diplomacia-china-mas….
- 7Mario Esteban, “COVID-19 y la imagen de China en España” [COVID-19 and the image of China in Spain], Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, April 23, 2022, https://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/blog/covid-19-y-la-imagen-de-china-….
- 8German Marshall Fund and Bertelsmann Foundation, “2021 Transatlantic Trends. Transatlantic Opinion on Global Challenges,” June 7, 2021, https://www.gmfus.org/sites/default/files/2021-08/TT2021_Web_Version.pdf.
- 9German Marshall Fund and Bertelsmann Foundation, “2022 Transatlantic Trends. Public Opinion in Times of Geopolitical Turmoil,” September 29, 2022, https://www.gmfus.org/sites/default/files/2022-09/Transatlantic%20Trend….
The following are key areas researchers, media experts, and officials and journalists should watch related to Beijing’s media influence in Spain in the coming years.
- Chinese investments in the energy sector: As Spain intensifies its effort to convert its energy production and consumption to green energy, Chinese companies have become instrumental in providing equipment and investing in the sector. The EU and Spain are considering imposing limits on those investments thus deteriorating the relations with China. It will be important to pay attention to the reaction of Beijing if that is the case.
- The EU sets the mood: Spain will probably abide by the EU decisions on China, while still trying to appear a good friend to China. As the geopolitical order is shaken by the war in Ukraine, it is expected that Spain will have to take a harder stance towards Russia’s allies.
- China’s efforts to control the information space: Be it through existing social media channels or new ones, new 5G developments or strong diplomatic stances, China is expected to continue trying to control the information space in Spain with regards to sensitive issues like human rights, the Uyghurs, Taiwan, and Tibet. China’s tactics will also likely include media acquisitions and investments in multimedia companies like Prensa Ibérica that focus on local affairs and might escape the national political spotlight.
- Soft power initiatives: China will continue investing in cultural events, media conferences, and educational programs in Spain, initiatives that contribute to its soft power and influence over the Spanish media, social, and political landscape.
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