The Republic of China and the Kingdom of Spain had relations before 1931 (link). Did they maintain these relations after the Second Spanish Republic was established?

After 1945, the Spanish State under Franco had relations with the Kuomintang-dominated ROC, by then confined to the island of Taiwan (link).

After the Republic was founded, but before Franco's victory over the Republic in 1939, did the ROC have relations with either side? Some individual Chinese communists came over to fight on the Republican side, which presumably would have displeased the ROC. Did they respond by helping Franco, even rhetorically?

The Spanish Civil War and the Chinese wars were contemporaneous, and parallels were drawn frequently both at the time and in later history. Some might say that the fact both were locked in a civil war and would have had little to do with each other, but I respectfully disagree. Both China and Spain had more dealings with foreign countries because of the conflict they were experiencing. And as I established Spain, as a moderately powerful European country, had had relations with China for a long time.

There are two ways to look at this, as I see it:

  1. Everybody in the west, including supporters of the USSR and the USSR itself, wanted Chiang Kai-Shek to win against the Japanese. No-one cared about the Chinese Communist Party. Despite being a right-wing dictator, Chiang found himself on the side of the democracies, and was seen by them as the innocent victim of basically fascist Japanese aggression. So Spain would have supported him. Spain was being attacked by an internal faction vigorously backed by Italy and Germany, the allies of Japan. Like the Spanish government, Chiang was a Republican, fighting against against an enemy that included a lot of monarchists in its ranks. So the Kuomintang rooted for the Spanish Republic.

  2. Chiang was a right-wing dictator. He was fighting against the Communists, and had no love at all for either the West or the Soviets; at a later time he described Britian, America and Russia as 'a robber, a hooligan and a bully'. He would perhaps have heard that some Chinese Communists had gone to aid the republic, which would have made him better-disposed to Franco. The ROC had a long history of collaboration with Germany up to the Nazi era, which was only just starting to unravel. For their part, the Spanish Republic recognised Franco in a man like Chiang, and didn't like it at all. They saw someone on the wrong side of history and wanted the CCP to defeat both him and the Japanese. Which one of these is closer to the truth? Are they both wrong?

  • Note that Spain from 1931 to 1939 had many changes: it firstly passed from monarchy to republic, then had three different governments (1931 left wing, 1934 right wing and 1936 left wing again), followed by a dramatic Civil War (1936-1939) followed by a fascist dictatorship. So I may assume that those relationships had some peaks and downs through those ages.
    – fedorqui
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 6:43
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    By the way, I suggest you to include the bounty explanation within the question. Once the bounty is over, this text won't be available no more.
    – fedorqui
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 8:45
  • I find some references to Spanish minister supporting China in the war with Japan (1, 2).
    – fedorqui
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 8:55
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    Your taiwantoday link displays no content.
    – sds
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 14:59
  • sds sorry I'll try and find another link to the article when I get a chance. @fedorqui, that sounds interesting, but google books says the relevant pages are outside the viewing limit. Could you tell me what that minister says, and who it was?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 18:48

2 Answers 2



I think you place far too much emphasis on ideology. The right/left dichotomy is fairly euro-centric.

The differences between Nationalists/Chiang vs Communists/Mao were quite unlike the differences between Nazis/Hitler and Communists/Thälmann. E.g., I seem to recall that Mao and Chiang cooperated against the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang. Can you imagine Thälmann cooperating with Hitler against Stalin? Or maybe Henlein cooperating with Beneš against Hitler? (no reference, sorry).

Chinese were united is their resentment of the humiliations they suffered throughout the 19th century at the hands of Europeans and wanted to speedily modernize their country economically (and thus militarily) so that it would take the place on the world scene commensurate with its self-assessment.

IOW, the difference between Mao and Chiang was tactical (how to Make China Great Again) while the difference between Right and Left in the European eyes is strategic (what are the proper priorities a society ought to have).

The implacability of the conflict between Mao and Chiang is more circumstantial (ethnic differences compounded by the conflict with Japan, note that the "one ethnic China" is another euro-centric mirage, in fact, China has many dialects) than principled (ideological disagreements).


The above sets the stage to the answer: since Spain was remote, relatively backward and poor and thus could not contribute much to the fight of Chiang against Japan (and warlords, including Mao), Chiang's attitude was supremely indifferent. He would go through whatever motions were expedient (e.g., since he was supported by the USSR, he would express indignation at whatever Franco did and support of whatever the Communists did, but nothing else). There were about 100 Chinese in the International Brigades, organized by CCP, and I am sure neither Chiang not Franco cared much.

Spain had its own indifference - since they could not affect the Chinese war and could not hope for any help from them, the relationships were probably tenuous at best. They had a skeleton crew in Shanghai International Settlement of course, but not much more.


It's hard to prove a negative (in this case, "nothing interesting existed between Spain and China in the 1930-ies") outside of Math.

You might want to look at books by Paul Preston about Spain (e.g., Revolution and War in Spain, 1931-1939).

On the other hand, China at War: An Encyclopedia by Xiaobing Li does not mention Spain or Spanish in the context of the Civil War at all.

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    Some references to support the answer would be great. Commented May 9, 2017 at 23:55
  • @congusbongus: it is hard to prove a negative outside of Math, but please look at the edit ("Further")
    – sds
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 15:10
  • Mao really opposed the Soviets in Xinjiang? Fascinating. Not really related to the question but can you point to more detail about that?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 18:50
  • @NeMo: I am afraid I have no reference - I was sure Wiki mentioned it, but I don't see it now. Sorry.
    – sds
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 19:00
  • I have awarded the bounty to this answer. It lacks sources, but that's not the answerer's fault since if it's correct that 'nothing interesting happened' sources will not exist. I would still like to know more detail about what passed between those countries at that time (it can't be literally nothing) but I'm persuaded that the central argument here is correct.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 8:37

The evidence is sparse, but what little there is suggests that Chiang got along well with Franco, and not with the Republicans. Articles like this one suggest that Franco felt warmly toward Chiang. Franco was not a notably tolerant man, and it is unlikely that he would felt this way if Chiang had supported his enemies in the 1930s. Whether or not China and Spain had diplomatic relations before Franco (probably not), it's quite clear that Chiang had diplomatic relations with Franco (after World War II), and where his sympathies lay.

I agree with your theory number 2. Chiang and Franco were both "Generallsimos." They were both narrow-minded army men who believed in a top-down "command and control" approach to governing. They were both nationalistic, traditional minded men who were fundamentally anti-Democratic and especially anti-Communist. Basically, they were very much kindred spirits.

Chiang was barely anti-Japanese.He started his career as an officer in the Japanese army. Later, he was famous for saying, "the Japanese are a disease of the skin. The Communists are a disease of the heart." Until the Xi'an incident of 1936, Chiang was more interested in fighting Communists than fighting Japan. Basically, the Japanese bungled big time to alienate a "fellow traveler" like Chiang. Their later support of left-wing Wang Jing Wei is best explained as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

If Chiang and Franco found themselves with opposite "sympathies" in World War, it would have been accidental, and arisen from the fact that Chiang was forced into an alliance with the U.S. Britain, the Soviet Union, (all of whom Chiang distrusted as a "kidnapper, hooligan, and bully") because of Japanese aggression.

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    Your core thesis is that Chiang is anti-Communist and therefore unfriendly towards the Republic. This is a tenuous line of reasoning, since it's not clear whether Chiang was ideologically motivated against the Communists. He was just as ruthless when fighting other Chinese warlords and threats to his rule. Commented May 11, 2017 at 3:21
  • I see no support for your claim of "warmth" of Franco towards Chiang in the article you reference.
    – sds
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:55
  • Chiang was a Soviet client for most of 1930-ies.
    – sds
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:56
  • @congusbongus: "The Japanese are a disease of the skin. The Communists are a disease of the heart." Enough said.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 16:19
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    Again, please consider the context. Chiang said this in 1941, when the war against Japan was at a stalemate, the United Front falling apart, the Soviets pulling aid after signing a non-aggression pact with Japan, and when Mao wrote that the Communists should be "70% expansion, 20% dealing with the KMT, and 10% resisting Japan". Doesn't that provide a bit of irony? Commented May 12, 2017 at 2:26

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