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HUMAN UNITY AND POLITICS. THE NEW CIRCULAR SILK ROAD; RELATIONS BETWEEN SPAIN/EU AND CHINA

As the director of Chinese studies in Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales, ICEI, I have participated in a seminar about “ExpAs the director of Chinese studies in Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales, ICEI, I have participated in a seminar about “Experience of the Chinese investments in Spain”, inserted in the general project: “A new impulse in China Spain relationship in the political frame of the European Union”.
With it in mind I have read or re-read a good part of the most recent information of our most signified experts on China – Spain relations. And it is interesting to notice that most of them point out the special attention that China is addressing to Spain. However, Spain does not pay much attention to it and, worst, is not getting any corresponding investments or economic returns of it, not even similar to others UE partners. The Elcano Instituto expert, Mario Esteban, puts it this way: “friends, but not partners”, where I shall insist that friendship comes just from one side because Spain, probably limited by her alliances and her self-absorption, shows reticence, misgiving and incompetence in regard to this relationship which causes irritation among entrepreneurs.
Diplomats with direct experience in dealings with China attribute such a special attention from China to Spain because Spain never closed her embassy after the violent eviction of the students from Tiananmen Square, was very much in favor of involvement with China to support her reform process instead of her involution and the Spanish Foreign Affair minister, Ordoñez, was the first to visit China after June 1989. Surely because all that, the Instituto Complutense de Asia Office, I was founder and manager of it, was opened in Beijing in 1994.
However, my opinion differs or is not limited to those of the diplomats, it is possible that this deference of China towards Spain is due to their previous relationship which has to be found in China records. In Spain, Asia is not included in the world for the academy.
Even if the Portuguese were first to arrive in China, the first regular and sound relationship with a western power was Spain. Spain set up her empire in the Philippines where, besides her general mission of converting the native there to Catholicism (Universalism), Spaniards there mostly were dedicated to commerce with China. We have the data of the yearly two ways journey of the Manila galleon for several centuries leaving from Acapulco in Mexico with silver from Potosi (Bolivia) crossing the Pacific, the Spanish Lake at that time, to return from Manila fully loaded of Chinese goods. During those centuries many Chinese, called shangleys, were stablished in Manila with their families, most of them suppliers and dealers. They kept a constant and fluid relations with the Spaniards there and this enabled them to appreciate and transmit the ways, vision, proposals and propaganda of the Hispanic civilization and compare it with their own.
In the Spanish and Catholic side, the Jesuits entered into China to know her civilization learning the language and looking for the conversion of the Chinese people. It seems that their main target was the emperor. Particularly interesting in this regards are the records of the Italian Jesuit Mateo Rizzi who stablished himself in Beijing and of special significance the experience of the Spanish Jesuit Diego de Pantoja. This last one was commissioned to represent Philip II in front of the Ming emperor and during two years was busy looking for presents which would show him Spanish ways and intends. His travel was finally cancelled, when a good part of the presents were already in Mexico. And the reason for it was that Philip learnt that making presents to the Chinese emperor meant to be his subject.
Even though we have information of some reckless plans to invade China emulating Cortés in Mexico, those were not carried out, but in any case they were subordinated to the idea of converting China to Catholicism and put it under the unifying authority of the Pope. And Chinese saw that Jesuits would learn other people language, so the tagalo in Philippines as also standard Chinese, in order to preach the gospel in their hosts` languages.
When some centuries later China faced the British Empire and other powers, Western civilization had changed a lot. After the Westphalia peace treaty a new system of sovereign nation states had come to place and nationalism as the totalitarian contemporary ideology more and more sharpened by the French Revolution and by Romanticism. Last, but not less, also supported by the convenience of new peripheral or maritime powers, the new hegemons, UK and later USA, whose strategic interest was to divide as much as possible the continent.
Therefore, the destructive approach of the British Empire, prone to cannon politics and opium business was quite shocking for China where the sovereign nation state concept had not been introduced and her vision was more similar to the Spanish one of integrating the world under a single rule able so to guarantee peace, very much in contradiction with people mistreatment since a new and uprising power was supposed to gain them for her cause.
Chinese documents of the time usually refer to the British as “rebels”, since they assumed their intention was to install themselves in the throne of the Central Empire (Zhong Guo – China) displacing the Manchus, as it had happened before with the Mongols and with themselves, who, as Manchus, were also ‘foreigners’ in China. That very question has recently emerged by the occasion of the Hong Kong handover when the contemporary Chinese authorities called the Qing deals with the British “unequal treaties” since they showed a clearly different concepts or standards in international relations according to the mentioned approach. And probably that candid old concept of China was key preventing China to apply a policy or strategy for dividing foreign powers, as the situation of the XIX century very much invited.
I think that, given our current unidimensional system of nationalism, it is not unappropriated to illustrate it saying that three centuries back it would have been incomprehensible to put a bomb in a market or to bomb a city killing civilians indiscriminately to bend a state. It would have been considered terrorism, not only if coming from illegal groups, since the people was not linked to power -the monopoly of violence-, as now, no matter if democratically elected or not. And, in any case, such an action was incompatible with the traditional Hispanic or Chinese systems whose proposal was about inclusion and, in their own ways, their purpose was to pacify the world. Indeed, both powers shared the same concept of evil as originated by exclusion, or partial decision taking. (It does not mean that I am closing my eyes to fact that Hispanic supremacy on Europe, particularly on the Holy Roman German Empire, was facilitated by sense of threat in Europe caused by the Ottoman Empire, as also the disappearance of this perception contributed very much to its end).
On her side, China had to adapt to modern times; first overthrowing the Qing dynasty with a revolution lead by the Nationalist party and then with a second revolution led by the Communist party against the previous one because it was not Nationalist enough since the Nationalist party was “selling the country”, to foreign powers and operated in connivance with them according with the Communist party.
Nowadays, however, when China has reached a powerful enough position in the world as to reflect on her own experience needed to project herself to the world, it has not been able to refute her own ancestral discourse and acknowledgement that the sovereign national states system is very much in contradiction with her most basic understanding as also, in my opinion, with simple common sense –we will mention it later.
For Chinese civilization the main task of the state is to provide safety, security for the people, and her response is inclusive decision making. So sees it Confucius who claimed for the restoration of a unified command system according with the previous Zhou dynasty as the only way to put an end to ceaseless wars among the many states of his time. “Partiality is the root cause of all calamities of the world”, says also Mozi in order to expose his doctrine of Universal Love, which also begins this way: “The wise person, assuming the task of thinking the government of the world, shall first investigate the cause of disorder, in the same way as a doctor study the cause of the illness of the patient to look for a cure” (Book 4, Universal Love I, 1)
Indeed, the first thing Western people note in Chinese managing ways is their will to reach consensus of all the parts according with a hierarchy. However, Chinese must have doubts about a single rule of the world coming from the Middle Kingdom throne while the world lives day and night at the same time and, perhaps, they can´t avoid to long for a partner like Spain, a Spain that in past times shared their principles in search of a pacifying or unity proposal while the British Empire and other Western powers resulted just destructive forces only good for alliance against a third one.
China under Xi Jinping leadership seems to be rescuing that concept of shared security and common fate of humanity and it departs from economic measures and shared development to look for it. This approach has also been well noticed by the West and it has been as much the principle of the EU as also the globalization engine; growing trading, economic engagement and cooperation prevent confrontation and war. In this regard, the New Silk Road project or BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, pretends to integrate the worlAs the director of Chinese studies in Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales, ICEI, I have participated in a seminar about “Experience of the Chinese investments in Spain”, inserted in the general project: “A new impulse in China Spain relationship in the political frame of the European Union”.
With it in mind I have read or re-read a good part of the most recent information of our most signified experts on China – Spain relations. And it is interesting to notice that most of them point out the special attention that China is addressing to Spain. However, Spain does not pay much attention to it and, worst, is not getting any corresponding investments or economic returns of it, not even similar to others UE partners. The Elcano Instituto expert, Mario Esteban, puts it this way: “friends, but not partners”, where I shall insist that friendship comes just from one side because Spain, probably limited by her alliances and her self-absorption, shows reticence, misgiving and incompetence in regard to this relationship which causes irritation among entrepreneurs.
Diplomats with direct experience in dealings with China attribute such a special attention from China to Spain because Spain never closed her embassy after the violent eviction of the students from Tiananmen Square, was very much in favor of involvement with China to support her reform process instead of her involution and the Spanish Foreign Affair minister, Ordoñez, was the first to visit China after June 1989. Surely because all that, the Instituto Complutense de Asia Office, I was founder and manager of it, was opened in Beijing in 1994.
However, my opinion differs or is not limited to those of the diplomats, it is possible that this deference of China towards Spain is due to their previous relationship which has to be found in China records. In Spain, Asia is not included in the world for the academy.
Even if the Portuguese were first to arrive in China, the first regular and sound relationship with a western power was Spain. Spain set up her empire in the Philippines where, besides her general mission of converting the native there to Catholicism (Universalism), Spaniards there mostly were dedicated to commerce with China. We have the data of the yearly two ways journey of the Manila galleon for several centuries leaving from Acapulco in Mexico with silver from Potosi (Bolivia) crossing the Pacific, the Spanish Lake at that time, to return from Manila fully loaded of Chinese goods. During those centuries many Chinese, called shangleys, were stablished in Manila with their families, most of them suppliers and dealers. They kept a constant and fluid relations with the Spaniards there and this enabled them to appreciate and transmit the ways, vision, proposals and propaganda of the Hispanic civilization and compare it with their own.
In the Spanish and Catholic side, the Jesuits entered into China to know her civilization learning the language and looking for the conversion of the Chinese people. It seems that their main target was the emperor. Particularly interesting in this regards are the records of the Italian Jesuit Mateo Rizzi who stablished himself in Beijing and of special significance the experience of the Spanish Jesuit Diego de Pantoja. This last one was commissioned to represent Philip II in front of the Ming emperor and during two years was busy looking for presents which would show him Spanish ways and intends. His travel was finally cancelled, when a good part of the presents were already in Mexico. And the reason for it was that Philip learnt that making presents to the Chinese emperor meant to be his subject.
Even though we have information of some reckless plans to invade China emulating Cortés in Mexico, those were not carried out, but in any case they were subordinated to the idea of converting China to Catholicism and put it under the unifying authority of the Pope. And Chinese saw that Jesuits would learn other people language, so the tagalo in Philippines as also standard Chinese, in order to preach the gospel in their hosts` languages.
When some centuries later China faced the British Empire and other powers, Western civilization had changed a lot. After the Westphalia peace treaty a new system of sovereign nation states had come to place and nationalism as the totalitarian contemporary ideology more and more sharpened by the French Revolution and by Romanticism. Last, but not less, also supported by the convenience of new peripheral or maritime powers, the new hegemons, UK and later USA, whose strategic interest was to divide as much as possible the continent.
Therefore, the destructive approach of the British Empire, prone to cannon politics and opium business was quite shocking for China where the sovereign nation state concept had not been introduced and her vision was more similar to the Spanish one of integrating the world under a single rule able so to guarantee peace, very much in contradiction with people mistreatment since a new and uprising power was supposed to gain them for her cause.
Chinese documents of the time usually refer to the British as “rebels”, since they assumed their intention was to install themselves in the throne of the Central Empire (Zhong Guo – China) displacing the Manchus, as it had happened before with the Mongols and with themselves, who, as Manchus, were also ‘foreigners’ in China. That very question has recently emerged by the occasion of the Hong Kong handover when the contemporary Chinese authorities called the Qing deals with the British “unequal treaties” since they showed a clearly different concepts or standards in international relations according to the mentioned approach. And probably that candid old concept of China was key preventing China to apply a policy or strategy for dividing foreign powers, as the situation of the XIX century very much invited.
I think that, given our current unidimensional system of nationalism, it is not unappropriated to illustrate it saying that three centuries back it would have been incomprehensible to put a bomb in a market or to bomb a city killing civilians indiscriminately to bend a state. It would have been considered terrorism, not only if coming from illegal groups, since the people was not linked to power -the monopoly of violence-, as now, no matter if democratically elected or not. And, in any case, such an action was incompatible with the traditional Hispanic or Chinese systems whose proposal was about inclusion and, in their own ways, their purpose was to pacify the world. Indeed, both powers shared the same concept of evil as originated by exclusion, or partial decision taking. (It does not mean that I am closing my eyes to fact that Hispanic supremacy on Europe, particularly on the Holy Roman German Empire, was facilitated by sense of threat in Europe caused by the Ottoman Empire, as also the disappearance of this perception contributed very much to its end).
On her side, China had to adapt to modern times; first overthrowing the Qing dynasty with a revolution lead by the Nationalist party and then with a second revolution led by the Communist party against the previous one because it was not Nationalist enough since the Nationalist party was “selling the country”, to foreign powers and operated in connivance with them according with the Communist party.
Nowadays, however, when China has reached a powerful enough position in the world as to reflect on her own experience needed to project herself to the world, it has not been able to refute her own ancestral discourse and acknowledgement that the sovereign national states system is very much in contradiction with her most basic understanding as also, in my opinion, with simple common sense –we will mention it later.
For Chinese civilization the main task of the state is to provide safety, security for the people, and her response is inclusive decision making. So sees it Confucius who claimed for the restoration of a unified command system according with the previous Zhou dynasty as the only way to put an end to ceaseless wars among the many states of his time. “Partiality is the root cause of all calamities of the world”, says also Mozi in order to expose his doctrine of Universal Love, which also begins this way: “The wise person, assuming the task of thinking the government of the world, shall first investigate the cause of disorder, in the same way as a doctor study the cause of the illness of the patient to look for a cure” (Book 4, Universal Love I, 1)
Indeed, the first thing Western people note in Chinese managing ways is their will to reach consensus of all the parts according with a hierarchy. However, Chinese must have doubts about a single rule of the world coming from the Middle Kingdom throne while the world lives day and night at the same time and, perhaps, they can´t avoid to long for a partner like Spain, a Spain that in past times shared their principles in search of a pacifying or unity proposal while the British Empire and other Western powers resulted just destructive forces only good for alliance against a third one.
China under Xi Jinping leadership seems to be rescuing that concept of shared security and common fate of humanity and it departs from economic measures and shared development to look for it. This approach has also been well noticed by the West and it has been as much the principle of the EU as also the globalization engine; growing trading, economic engagement and cooperation prevent confrontation and war. In this regard, the New Silk Road project or BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, pretends to integrate the world central island, Eurasia and Africa and it is a move in that direction with independence of other possible motives that can impulse it. And it is not just this project, but other China policies aim at globalization development or, even more, a step beyond it; integration, in a time when their promoters of yesterday, UK and USA, step back and look to protectionism.
In my opinion, the EU shall reach a comprehensive agreement with China not only on the BRI but also on new standards for a sustainable industry and economy able to mitigate climate change under a regulatory frame valid for the whole world. This time, however, the EU does not need to push to impose her concept of (political) human rights on China as she has been doing up to now. On the contrary, the EU shall make an effort to understand and recognize China´s own human rights concept which refers mainly to safety or security and, in consequence, goes beyond the sovereign nation state and long for humanity. All this, I insist, without the EU renouncing to her own values, where many of her virtues come from, because China shall and actually want to learn some good practices applied by European governments in terms of transparency, responsibility, accountability and clear and precise regulations and rules.
But even this complementarity is not enough; a specific contribution from Spain is needed, a Spain which, as China, shall be able to look back at herself and not just meekly take and assume without further consideration the refusal and contempt on herself, on her past, from the vision of her historical competitors and rivals. And here, she also needed to look for Portugal priceless contribution since both enjoy a special position to rescue a part of the world very unfairly and painfully relegated and forgotten, the South Atlantic area, and to propose those countries at its banks to create a cooperation and joint development area joining that EU and China BRI project of integral development.
Likewise, we need to take into account and acknowledge that main source of security in the world central island is Russia, something quite clear according to my perception, even if the UE might not want to take notice. We can appreciate it, however, just by seeing those involved in conflicts in the area turning their eyes on Russia once US is leaving. At the same time, Russia shall cooperate to attract another great country and culture, India, and so on and on.
At this point we can notice here that regulations and agreements transparency are only possible if their purpose is universal, look for the inclusion of all, even if this incorporation is step by step. I think that China has historically seen with skepticism the concepts of transparency and participation, something easy to understand since decision taking in the past could not have such an universal character and, therefore, even if benevolence was meant to be at the roots of government, her objectives could not be but strategic and, therefore, they had to be hidden.
Nowadays, however, the seal of universality is transparency and vice versa. Most important is that the vision is inclusive, so that everyone has a place in it where they can see themselves there and recognized themselves in it or, if not, they will have the chance to dispute it and correct it.
In this way, as we see it now, the last countries to incorporate into a world sharing a common development system and a shared security system could be UK and USA, the North Atlantic area. Since they are the last world leaders, it is to understand that any status quo revision might always be seen detrimental to their interests. It is not the case, universality and inclusion is a disruptive step which brings us to a new stage leaving history as we know it behind. A new scenario beneficial for all without exception, finally outside the zero sum game of history. However, from the beginning we have to recognize their worries and interests and keep open the door for their participation until the human project is accomplished. If the project is not inclusive and universal, transparency will be impossible. Unilateral as also bilateral and even multilateral decision taking will not achieve it since it will turn out to be about a dealing with the reaction it prompts in those excluded, well against its purpose
And this is not all; transparency or universality implies also that those agreements, regulations have to be argued, beyond the planet protection and sustainability, based on human rights and so on the vital rights or those people in marginal areas, as South Atlantic and others, and the protection of those rights and the integration of those areas shall be assumed as a priority and important part in the economic and political projections and activities, so that any development contributes to welfare and integration of those who need it more, because if it is not so it results all the same a remorseless and ill-intentioned deed as in the past since the needs of those people are at sight and to look somewhere else and claim for human rights at the same time is contradictory.
Yes, my friends, humanity, human principle is based on putting ourselves in other people shoes -and surely Africans can be well our teachers since they are people who did not submit to the brutalizing and alienating action of the state. We can´t pretend to be inclusive or talk about human rights and at the same time think in terms of states as the absolute reference. To be inclusive is to be inclusive with the people and maybe this is the most difficult part to understand and to execute. How can we pretend to be inclusive if at the same time we let others starve or endure terrible hardships? The ability we have to understand each other is based in our ability to put ourselves in other people place, this is our common sense and the base of everything else. This is what humans have and if we renounce to it in order to base our relationship on the armed units or states, we will be discriminating and, therefore, we will need to keep applying as up to now to irrationality, harmful for all, the state of violence we live in now and we will not ever go anywhere from it.
But politicians are also people, persons, and if their main mission has always been to put themselves by the side, it is time for them to give face.
d central island, Eurasia and Africa and it is a move in that direction with independence of other possible motives that can impulse it. And it is not just this project, but other China policies aim at globalization development or, even more, a step beyond it; integration, in a time when their promoters of yesterday, UK and USA, step back and look to protectionism.
In my opinion, the EU shall reach a comprehensive agreement with China not only on the BRI but also on new standards for a sustainable industry and economy able to mitigate climate change under a regulatory frame valid for the whole world. This time, however, the EU does not need to push to impose her concept of (political) human rights on China as she has been doing up to now. On the contrary, the EU shall make an effort to understand and recognize China´s own human rights concept which refers mainly to safety or security and, in consequence, goes beyond the sovereign nation state and long for humanity. All this, I insist, without the EU renouncing to her own values, where many of her virtues come from, because China shall and actually want to learn some good practices applied by European governments in terms of transparency, responsibility, accountability and clear and precise regulations and rules.
But even this complementarity is not enough; a specific contribution from Spain is needed, a Spain which, as China, shall be able to look back at herself and not just meekly take and assume without further consideration the refusal and contempt on herself, on her past, from the vision of her historical competitors and rivals. And here, she also needed to look for Portugal priceless contribution since both enjoy a special position to rescue a part of the world very unfairly and painfully relegated and forgotten, the South Atlantic area, and to propose those countries at its banks to create a cooperation and joint development area joining that EU and China BRI project of integral development.
Likewise, we need to take into account and acknowledge that main source of security in the world central island is Russia, something quite clear according to my perception, even if the UE might not want to take notice. We can appreciate it, however, just by seeing those involved in conflicts in the area turning their eyes on Russia once US is leaving. At the same time, Russia shall cooperate to attract another great country and culture, India, and so on and on.
At this point we can notice here that regulations and agreements transparency are only possible if their purpose is universal, look for the inclusion of all, even if this incorporation is step by step. I think that China has historically seen with skepticism the concepts of transparency and participation, something easy to understand since decision taking in the past could not have such an universal character and, therefore, even if benevolence was meant to be at the roots of government, her objectives could not be but strategic and, therefore, they had to be hidden.
Nowadays, however, the seal of universality is transparency and vice versa. Most important is that the vision is inclusive, so that everyone has a place in it where they can see themselves there and recognized themselves in it or, if not, they will have the chance to dispute it and correct it.
In this way, as we see it now, the last countries to incorporate into a world sharing a common development system and a shared security system could be UK and USA, the North Atlantic area. Since they are the last world leaders, it is to understand that any status quo revision might always be seen detrimental to their interests. It is not the case, universality and inclusion is a disruptive step which brings us to a new stage leaving history as we know it behind. A new scenario beneficial for all without exception, finally outside the zero sum game of history. However, from the beginning we have to recognize their worries and interests and keep open the door for their participation until the human project is accomplished. If the project is not inclusive and universal, transparency will be impossible. Unilateral as also bilateral and even multilateral decision taking will not achieve it since it will turn out to be about a dealing with the reaction it prompts in those excluded, well against its purpose
And this is not all; transparency or universality implies also that those agreements, regulations have to be argued, beyond the planet protection and sustainability, based on human rights and so on the vital rights or those people in marginal areas, as South Atlantic and others, and the protection of those rights and the integration of those areas shall be assumed as a priority and important part in the economic and political projections and activities, so that any development contributes to welfare and integration of those who need it more, because if it is not so it results all the same a remorseless and ill-intentioned deed as in the past since the needs of those people are at sight and to look somewhere else and claim for human rights at the same time is contradictory.
Yes, my friends, humanity, human principle is based on putting ourselves in other people shoes -and surely Africans can be well our teachers since they are people who did not submit to the brutalizing and alienating action of the state. We can´t pretend to be inclusive or talk about human rights and at the same time think in terms of states as the absolute reference. To be inclusive is to be inclusive with the people and maybe this is the most difficult part to understand and to execute. How can we pretend to be inclusive if at the same time we let others starve or endure terrible hardships? The ability we have to understand each other is based in our ability to put ourselves in other people place, this is our common sense and the base of everything else. This is what humans have and if we renounce to it in order to base our relationship on the armed units or states, we will be discriminating and, therefore, we will need to keep applying as up to now to irrationality, harmful for all, the state of violence we live in now and we will not ever go anywhere from it.
But politicians are also people, persons, and if their main mission has always been to put themselves by the side, it is time for them to give face.
erience of the Chinese investments in Spain”, inserted in the general project: “A new impulse in China Spain relationship in the political frame of the European Union”.
With it As the director of Chinese studies in Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales, ICEI, I have participated in a seminar about “Experience of the Chinese investments in Spain”, inserted in the general project: “A new impulse in China Spain relationship in the political frame of the European Union”.
With it in mind I have read or re-read a good part of the most recent information of our most signified experts on China – Spain relations. And it is interesting to notice that most of them point out the special attention that China is addressing to Spain. However, Spain does not pay much attention to it and, worst, is not getting any corresponding investments or economic returns of it, not even similar to others UE partners. The Elcano Instituto expert, Mario Esteban, puts it this way: “friends, but not partners”, where I shall insist that friendship comes just from one side because Spain, probably limited by her alliances and her self-absorption, shows reticence, misgiving and incompetence in regard to this relationship which causes irritation among entrepreneurs.
Diplomats with direct experience in dealings with China attribute such a special attention from China to Spain because Spain never closed her embassy after the violent eviction of the students from Tiananmen Square, was very much in favor of involvement with China to support her reform process instead of her involution and the Spanish Foreign Affair minister, Ordoñez, was the first to visit China after June 1989. Surely because all that, the Instituto Complutense de Asia Office, I was founder and manager of it, was opened in Beijing in 1994.
However, my opinion differs or is not limited to those of the diplomats, it is possible that this deference of China towards Spain is due to their previous relationship which has to be found in China records. In Spain, Asia is not included in the world for the academy.
Even if the Portuguese were first to arrive in China, the first regular and sound relationship with a western power was Spain. Spain set up her empire in the Philippines where, besides her general mission of converting the native there to Catholicism (Universalism), Spaniards there mostly were dedicated to commerce with China. We have the data of the yearly two ways journey of the Manila galleon for several centuries leaving from Acapulco in Mexico with silver from Potosi (Bolivia) crossing the Pacific, the Spanish Lake at that time, to return from Manila fully loaded of Chinese goods. During those centuries many Chinese, called shangleys, were stablished in Manila with their families, most of them suppliers and dealers. They kept a constant and fluid relations with the Spaniards there and this enabled them to appreciate and transmit the ways, vision, proposals and propaganda of the Hispanic civilization and compare it with their own.
In the Spanish and Catholic side, the Jesuits entered into China to know her civilization learning the language and looking for the conversion of the Chinese people. It seems that their main target was the emperor. Particularly interesting in this regards are the records of the Italian Jesuit Mateo Rizzi who stablished himself in Beijing and of special significance the experience of the Spanish Jesuit Diego de Pantoja. This last one was commissioned to represent Philip II in front of the Ming emperor and during two years was busy looking for presents which would show him Spanish ways and intends. His travel was finally cancelled, when a good part of the presents were already in Mexico. And the reason for it was that Philip learnt that making presents to the Chinese emperor meant to be his subject.
Even though we have information of some reckless plans to invade China emulating Cortés in Mexico, those were not carried out, but in any case they were subordinated to the idea of converting China to Catholicism and put it under the unifying authority of the Pope. And Chinese saw that Jesuits would learn other people language, so the tagalo in Philippines as also standard Chinese, in order to preach the gospel in their hosts` languages.
When some centuries later China faced the British Empire and other powers, Western civilization had changed a lot. After the Westphalia peace treaty a new system of sovereign nation states had come to place and nationalism as the totalitarian contemporary ideology more and more sharpened by the French Revolution and by Romanticism. Last, but not less, also supported by the convenience of new peripheral or maritime powers, the new hegemons, UK and later USA, whose strategic interest was to divide as much as possible the continent.
Therefore, the destructive approach of the British Empire, prone to cannon politics and opium business was quite shocking for China where the sovereign nation state concept had not been introduced and her vision was more similar to the Spanish one of integrating the world under a single rule able so to guarantee peace, very much in contradiction with people mistreatment since a new and uprising power was supposed to gain them for her cause.
Chinese documents of the time usually refer to the British as “rebels”, since they assumed their intention was to install themselves in the throne of the Central Empire (Zhong Guo – China) displacing the Manchus, as it had happened before with the Mongols and with themselves, who, as Manchus, were also ‘foreigners’ in China. That very question has recently emerged by the occasion of the Hong Kong handover when the contemporary Chinese authorities called the Qing deals with the British “unequal treaties” since they showed a clearly different concepts or standards in international relations according to the mentioned approach. And probably that candid old concept of China was key preventing China to apply a policy or strategy for dividing foreign powers, as the situation of the XIX century very much invited.
I think that, given our current unidimensional system of nationalism, it is not unappropriated to illustrate it saying that three centuries back it would have been incomprehensible to put a bomb in a market or to bomb a city killing civilians indiscriminately to bend a state. It would have been considered terrorism, not only if coming from illegal groups, since the people was not linked to power -the monopoly of violence-, as now, no matter if democratically elected or not. And, in any case, such an action was incompatible with the traditional Hispanic or Chinese systems whose proposal was about inclusion and, in their own ways, their purpose was to pacify the world. Indeed, both powers shared the same concept of evil as originated by exclusion, or partial decision taking. (It does not mean that I am closing my eyes to fact that Hispanic supremacy on Europe, particularly on the Holy Roman German Empire, was facilitated by sense of threat in Europe caused by the Ottoman Empire, as also the disappearance of this perception contributed very much to its end).
On her side, China had to adapt to modern times; first overthrowing the Qing dynasty with a revolution lead by the Nationalist party and then with a second revolution led by the Communist party against the previous one because it was not Nationalist enough since the Nationalist party was “selling the country”, to foreign powers and operated in connivance with them according with the Communist party.
Nowadays, however, when China has reached a powerful enough position in the world as to reflect on her own experience needed to project herself to the world, it has not been able to refute her own ancestral discourse and acknowledgement that the sovereign national states system is very much in contradiction with her most basic understanding as also, in my opinion, with simple common sense –we will mention it later.
For Chinese civilization the main task of the state is to provide safety, security for the people, and her response is inclusive decision making. So sees it Confucius who claimed for the restoration of a unified command system according with the previous Zhou dynasty as the only way to put an end to ceaseless wars among the many states of his time. “Partiality is the root cause of all calamities of the world”, says also Mozi in order to expose his doctrine of Universal Love, which also begins this way: “The wise person, assuming the task of thinking the government of the world, shall first investigate the cause of disorder, in the same way as a doctor study the cause of the illness of the patient to look for a cure” (Book 4, Universal Love I, 1)
Indeed, the first thing Western people note in Chinese managing ways is their will to reach consensus of all the parts according with a hierarchy. However, Chinese must have doubts about a single rule of the world coming from the Middle Kingdom throne while the world lives day and night at the same time and, perhaps, they can´t avoid to long for a partner like Spain, a Spain that in past times shared their principles in search of a pacifying or unity proposal while the British Empire and other Western powers resulted just destructive forces only good for alliance against a third one.
China under Xi Jinping leadership seems to be rescuing that concept of shared security and common fate of humanity and it departs from economic measures and shared development to look for it. This approach has also been well noticed by the West and it has been as much the principle of the EU as also the globalization engine; growing trading, economic engagement and cooperation prevent confrontation and war. In this regard, the New Silk Road project or BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, pretends to integrate the world central island, Eurasia and Africa and it is a move in that direction with independence of other possible motives that can impulse it. And it is not just this project, but other China policies aim at globalization development or, even more, a step beyond it; integration, in a time when their promoters of yesterday, UK and USA, step back and look to protectionism.
In my opinion, the EU shall reach a comprehensive agreement with China not only on the BRI but also on new standards for a sustainable industry and economy able to mitigate climate change under a regulatory frame valid for the whole world. This time, however, the EU does not need to push to impose her concept of (political) human rights on China as she has been doing up to now. On the contrary, the EU shall make an effort to understand and recognize China´s own human rights concept which refers mainly to safety or security and, in consequence, goes beyond the sovereign nation state and long for humanity. All this, I insist, without the EU renouncing to her own values, where many of her virtues come from, because China shall and actually want to learn some good practices applied by European governments in terms of transparency, responsibility, accountability and clear and precise regulations and rules.
But even this complementarity is not enough; a specific contribution from Spain is needed, a Spain which, as China, shall be able to look back at herself and not just meekly take and assume without further consideration the refusal and contempt on herself, on her past, from the vision of her historical competitors and rivals. And here, she also needed to look for Portugal priceless contribution since both enjoy a special position to rescue a part of the world very unfairly and painfully relegated and forgotten, the South Atlantic area, and to propose those countries at its banks to create a cooperation and joint development area joining that EU and China BRI project of integral development.
Likewise, we need to take into account and acknowledge that main source of security in the world central island is Russia, something quite clear according to my perception, even if the UE might not want to take notice. We can appreciate it, however, just by seeing those involved in conflicts in the area turning their eyes on Russia once US is leaving. At the same time, Russia shall cooperate to attract another great country and culture, India, and so on and on.
At this point we can notice here that regulations and agreements transparency are only possible if their purpose is universal, look for the inclusion of all, even if this incorporation is step by step. I think that China has historically seen with skepticism the concepts of transparency and participation, something easy to understand since decision taking in the past could not have such an universal character and, therefore, even if benevolence was meant to be at the roots of government, her objectives could not be but strategic and, therefore, they had to be hidden.
Nowadays, however, the seal of universality is transparency and vice versa. Most important is that the vision is inclusive, so that everyone has a place in it where they can see themselves there and recognized themselves in it or, if not, they will have the chance to dispute it and correct it.
In this way, as we see it now, the last countries to incorporate into a world sharing a common development system and a shared security system could be UK and USA, the North Atlantic area. Since they are the last world leaders, it is to understand that any status quo revision might always be seen detrimental to their interests. It is not the case, universality and inclusion is a disruptive step which brings us to a new stage leaving history as we know it behind. A new scenario beneficial for all without exception, finally outside the zero sum game of history. However, from the beginning we have to recognize their worries and interests and keep open the door for their participation until the human project is accomplished. If the project is not inclusive and universal, transparency will be impossible. Unilateral as also bilateral and even multilateral decision taking will not achieve it since it will turn out to be about a dealing with the reaction it prompts in those excluded, well against its purpose
And this is not all; transparency or universality implies also that those agreements, regulations have to be argued, beyond the planet protection and sustainability, based on human rights and so on the vital rights or those people in marginal areas, as South Atlantic and others, and the protection of those rights and the integration of those areas shall be assumed as a priority and important part in the economic and political projections and activities, so that any development contributes to welfare and integration of those who need it more, because if it is not so it results all the same a remorseless and ill-intentioned deed as in the past since the needs of those people are at sight and to look somewhere else and claim for human rights at the same time is contradictory.
Yes, my friends, humanity, human principle is based on putting ourselves in other people shoes -and surely Africans can be well our teachers since they are people who did not submit to the brutalizing and alienating action of the state. We can´t pretend to be inclusive or talk about human rights and at the same time think in terms of states as the absolute reference. To be inclusive is to be inclusive with the people and maybe this is the most difficult part to understand and to execute. How can we pretend to be inclusive if at the same time we let others starve or endure terrible hardships? The ability we have to understand each other is based in our ability to put ourselves in other people place, this is our common sense and the base of everything else. This is what humans have and if we renounce to it in order to base our relationship on the armed units or states, we will be discriminating and, therefore, we will need to keep applying as up to now to irrationality, harmful for all, the state of violence we live in now and we will not ever go anywhere from it.
But politicians are also people, persons, and if their main mission has always been to put themselves by the side, it is time for them to give face.
in mind I have read or re-read a good part of the most recent information of our most signified experts on China – Spain relations. And it is interesting to notice that most of them point out the special attention that China is addressing to Spain. However, Spain does not pay much attention to it and, worst, is not getting any corresponding investments or economic returns of it, not even similar to others UE partners. The Elcano Instituto expert, Mario Esteban, puts it this way: “friends, but not partners”, where I shall insist that friendship comes just from one side because Spain, probably limited by her alliances and her self-absorption, shows reticence, misgiving and incompetence in regard to this relationship which causes irritation among entrepreneurs.
Diplomats with direct experience in dealings with China attribute such a special attention from China to Spain because Spain never closed her embassy after the violent eviction of the students from Tiananmen Square, was very much in favor of involvement with China to support her reform process instead of her involution and the Spanish Foreign Affair minister, Ordoñez, was the first to visit China after June 1989. Surely because all that, the Instituto Complutense de Asia Office, I was founder and manager of it, was opened in Beijing in 1994.
However, my opinion differs or is not limited to those of the diplomats, it is possible that this deference of China towards Spain is due to their previous relationship which has to be found in China records. In Spain, Asia is not included in the world for the academy.
Even if the Portuguese were first to arrive in China, the first regular and sound relationship with a western power was Spain. Spain set up her empire in the Philippines where, besides her general mission of converting the native there to Catholicism (Universalism), Spaniards there mostly were dedicated to commerce with China. We have the data of the yearly two ways journey of the Manila galleon for several centuries leaving from Acapulco in Mexico with silver from Potosi (Bolivia) crossing the Pacific, the Spanish Lake at that time, to return from Manila fully loaded of Chinese goods. During those centuries many Chinese, called shangleys, were stablished in Manila with their families, most of them suppliers and dealers. They kept a constant and fluid relations with the Spaniards there and this enabled them to appreciate and transmit the ways, vision, proposals and propaganda of the Hispanic civilization and compare it with their own.
In the Spanish and Catholic side, the Jesuits entered into China to know her civilization learning the language and looking for the conversion of the Chinese people. It seems that their main target was the emperor. Particularly interesting in this regards are the records of the Italian Jesuit Mateo Rizzi who stablished himself in Beijing and of special significance the experience of the Spanish Jesuit Diego de Pantoja. This last one was commissioned to represent Philip II in front of the Ming emperor and during two years was busy looking for presents which would show him Spanish ways and intends. His travel was finally cancelled, when a good part of the presents were already in Mexico. And the reason for it was that Philip learnt that making presents to the Chinese emperor meant to be his subject.
Even though we have information of some reckless plans to invade China emulating Cortés in Mexico, those were not carried out, but in any case they were subordinated to the idea of converting China to Catholicism and put it under the unifying authority of the Pope. And Chinese saw that Jesuits would learn other people language, so the tagalo in Philippines as also standard Chinese, in order to preach the gospel in their hosts` languages.
When some centuries later China faced the British Empire and other powers, Western civilization had changed a lot. After the Westphalia peace treaty a new system of sovereign nation states had come to place and nationalism as the totalitarian contemporary ideology more and more sharpened by the French Revolution and by Romanticism. Last, but not less, also supported by the convenience of new peripheral or maritime powers, the new hegemons, UK and later USA, whose strategic interest was to divide as much as possible the continent.
Therefore, the destructive approach of the British Empire, prone to cannon politics and opium business was quite shocking for China where the sovereign nation state concept had not been introduced and her vision was more similar to the Spanish one of integrating the world under a single rule able so to guarantee peace, very much in contradiction with people mistreatment since a new and uprising power was supposed to gain them for her cause.
Chinese documents of the time usually refer to the British as “rebels”, since they assumed their intention was to install themselves in the throne of the Central Empire (Zhong Guo – China) displacing the Manchus, as it had happened before with the Mongols and with themselves, who, as Manchus, were also ‘foreigners’ in China. That very question has recently emerged by the occasion of the Hong Kong handover when the contemporary Chinese authorities called the Qing deals with the British “unequal treaties” since they showed a clearly different concepts or standards in international relations according to the mentioned approach. And probably that candid old concept of China was key preventing China to apply a policy or strategy for dividing foreign powers, as the situation of the XIX century very much invited.
I think that, given our current unidimensional system of nationalism, it is not unappropriated to illustrate it saying that three centuries back it would have been incomprehensible to put a bomb in a market or to bomb a city killing civilians indiscriminately to bend a state. It would have been considered terrorism, not only if coming from illegal groups, since the people was not linked to power -the monopoly of violence-, as now, no matter if democratically elected or not. And, in any case, such an action was incompatible with the traditional Hispanic or Chinese systems whose proposal was about inclusion and, in their own ways, their purpose was to pacify the world. Indeed, both powers shared the same concept of evil as originated by exclusion, or partial decision taking. (It does not mean that I am closing my eyes to fact that Hispanic supremacy on Europe, particularly on the Holy Roman German Empire, was facilitated by sense of threat in Europe caused by the Ottoman Empire, as also the disappearance of this perception contributed very much to its end).
On her side, China had to adapt to modern times; first overthrowing the Qing dynasty with a revolution lead by the Nationalist party and then with a second revolution led by the Communist party against the previous one because it was not Nationalist enough since the Nationalist party was “selling the country”, to foreign powers and operated in connivance with them according with the Communist party.
Nowadays, however, when China has reached a powerful enough position in the world as to reflect on her own experience needed to project herself to the world, it has not been able to refute her own ancestral discourse and acknowledgement that the sovereign national states system is very much in contradiction with her most basic understanding as also, in my opinion, with simple common sense –we will mention it later.
For Chinese civilization the main task of the state is to provide safety, security for the people, and her response is inclusive decision making. So sees it Confucius who claimed for the restoration of a unified command system according with the previous Zhou dynasty as the only way to put an end to ceaseless wars among the many states of his time. “Partiality is the root cause of all calamities of the world”, says also Mozi in order to expose his doctrine of Universal Love, which also begins this way: “The wise person, assuming the task of thinking the government of the world, shall first investigate the cause of disorder, in the same way as a doctor study the cause of the illness of the patient to look for a cure” (Book 4, Universal Love I, 1)
Indeed, the first thing Western people note in Chinese managing ways is their will to reach consensus of all the parts according with a hierarchy. However, Chinese must have doubts about a single rule of the world coming from the Middle Kingdom throne while the world lives day and night at the same time and, perhaps, they can´t avoid to long for a partner like Spain, a Spain that in past times shared their principles in search of a pacifying or unity proposal while the British Empire and other Western powers resulted just destructive forces only good for alliance against a third one.
China under Xi Jinping leadership seems to be rescuing that concept of shared security and common fate of humanity and it departs from economic measures and shared development to look for it. This approach has also been well noticed by the West and it has been as much the principle of the EU as also the globalization engine; growing trading, economic engagement and cooperation prevent confrontation and war. In this regard, the New Silk Road project or BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, pretends to integrate the world central island, Eurasia and Africa and it is a move in that direction with independence of other possible motives that can impulse it. And it is not just this project, but other China policies aim at globalization development or, even more, a step beyond it; integration, in a time when their promoters of yesterday, UK and USA, step back and look to protectionism.
In my opinion, the EU shall reach a comprehensive agreement with China not only on the BRI but also on new standards for a sustainable industry and economy able to mitigate climate change under a regulatory frame valid for the whole world. This time, however, the EU does not need to push to impose her concept of (political) human rights on China as she has been doing up to now. On the contrary, the EU shall make an effort to understand and recognize China´s own human rights concept which refers mainly to safety or security and, in consequence, goes beyond the sovereign nation state and long for humanity. All this, I insist, without the EU renouncing to her own values, where many of her virtues come from, because China shall and actually want to learn some good practices applied by European governments in terms of transparency, responsibility, accountability and clear and precise regulations and rules.
But even this complementarity is not enough; a specific contribution from Spain is needed, a Spain which, as China, shall be able to look back at herself and not just meekly take and assume without further consideration the refusal and contempt on herself, on her past, from the vision of her historical competitors and rivals. And here, she also needed to look for Portugal priceless contribution since both enjoy a special position to rescue a part of the world very unfairly and painfully relegated and forgotten, the South Atlantic area, and to propose those countries at its banks to create a cooperation and joint development area joining that EU and China BRI project of integral development.
Likewise, we need to take into account and acknowledge that main source of security in the world central island is Russia, something quite clear according to my perception, even if the UE might not want to take notice. We can appreciate it, however, just by seeing those involved in conflicts in the area turning their eyes on Russia once US is leaving. At the same time, Russia shall cooperate to attract another great country and culture, India, and so on and on.
At this point we can notice here that regulations and agreements transparency are only possible if their purpose is universal, look for the inclusion of all, even if this incorporation is step by step. I think that China has historically seen with skepticism the concepts of transparency and participation, something easy to understand since decision taking in the past could not have such an universal character and, therefore, even if benevolence was meant to be at the roots of government, her objectives could not be but strategic and, therefore, they had to be hidden.
Nowadays, however, the seal of universality is transparency and vice versa. Most important is that the vision is inclusive, so that everyone has a place in it where they can see themselves there and recognized themselves in it or, if not, they will have the chance to dispute it and correct it.
In this way, as we see it now, the last countries to incorporate into a world sharing a common development system and a shared security system could be UK and USA, the North Atlantic area. Since they are the last world leaders, it is to understand that any status quo revision might always be seen detrimental to their interests. It is not the case, universality and inclusion is a disruptive step which brings us to a new stage leaving history as we know it behind. A new scenario beneficial for all without exception, finally outside the zero sum game of history. However, from the beginning we have to recognize their worries and interests and keep open the door for their participation until the human project is accomplished. If the project is not inclusive and universal, transparency will be impossible. Unilateral as also bilateral and even multilateral decision taking will not achieve it since it will turn out to be about a dealing with the reaction it prompts in those excluded, well against its purpose
And this is not all; transparency or universality implies also that those agreements, regulations have to be argued, beyond the planet protection and sustainability, based on human rights and so on the vital rights or those people in marginal areas, as South Atlantic and others, and the protection of those rights and the integration of those areas shall be assumed as a priority and important part in the economic and political projections and activities, so that any development contributes to welfare and integration of those who need it more, because if it is not so it results all the same a remorseless and ill-intentioned deed as in the past since the needs of those people are at sight and to look somewhere else and claim for human rights at the same time is contradictory.
Yes, my friends, humanity, human principle is based on putting ourselves in other people shoes -and surely Africans can be well our teachers since they are people who did not submit to the brutalizing and alienating action of the state. We can´t pretend to be inclusive or talk about human rights and at the same time think in terms of states as the absolute reference. To be inclusive is to be inclusive with the people and maybe this is the most difficult part to understand and to execute. How can we pretend to be inclusive if at the same time we let others starve or endure terrible hardships? The ability we have to understand each other is based in our ability to put ourselves in other people place, this is our common sense and the base of everything else. This is what humans have and if we renounce to it in order to base our relationship on the armed units or states, we will be discriminating and, therefore, we will need to keep applying as up to now to irrationality, harmful for all, the state of violence we live in now and we will not ever go anywhere from it.
But politicians are also people, persons, and if their main mission has always been to put themselves by the side, it is time for them to give face.

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