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Cuba - China Relations

Cuban relations with China recovered only gradually from the sharp bilateral split that had become manifest in 1966. With collapse of European communism, however, political relations warmed more quickly between these two remaining communist governments.

After the missile crisis, Fidel Castro increased contacts with communist China, exploiting the Sino-Soviet dispute and proclaiming his intention of remaining neutral and maintaining fraternal relations with all socialist states. Cuba also signed various trade and cultural agreements with Beijing, and Castro grew increasingly friendly toward the Chinese, praising their more militant revolutionary posture. He also defied the Soviets, as he joined the Chinese in refusing to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963). All of this maneuvering somewhat increased Castro's leverage with the Soviets and gained him more assistance.

The Chinese honeymoon was short-lived, however. In 1966 Fidel Castro blasted the Chinese for reducing rice shipments to Cuba below the quantities that Castro alleged had been agreed on between the two countries. He described Mao Tse-tung's ideological statements as lightweight, called for the creation of a "council of elders" to prevent aged leaders from "putting their whims into effect when senility has taken hold of them," and threatened to handle Chinese diplomats the same way "we handle the American Embassy." By then Castro had also become disappointed with China's attitude toward Vietnam and by its propaganda efforts to sway Cubans to its side in the Sino-Soviet conflict.

Castro's insistence on absolute control of the revolutionary movement in Latin America and his awareness of China's limitations in supplying Cuba's economic needs were further key factors in the cooling of the friendship between the two nations. Subsequently, relations became more cordial, but never reached the closeness achieved before 1966.

The Cuban regime trotted Fidel Castro out for a meeting with visiting Chinese Politburo member Wu Guanzheng, following soon after Foreign Minister Perez Roque's visit to China. Cuba's 21 April 2007 state-run newspapers showed still photographs of Chinese Politburo representative Wu Guanzheng meeting with Fidel Castro, who dressed in an athletic warm-up suit, along with an official photo of a one-on-one of Wu and Raul Castro, the latter in a business suit. Miami evening TV talk shows aired footage from Chinese media of the same meeting, which had no sound, but subtitles in Chinese. Fidel Castro appeared much the same as he did when he was videotaped receiving Hugo Chavez in late January: Withered, the "deer-in-the-headlights" look in the eyes, able to carry on some conversation from a chair, then stand up for an embrace at the end.

Chinese President Hu Jintao brought a large delegation to Havana 17 November 2008 following the G-20 summit in Washington, D.C. and a visit to Costa Rica. This was his second visit to Cuba as president (2004) and third visit overall (1997 as a member of the Chinese Communist Party.) After departing Cuba on November 19, Hu was scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru and then stop in Greece on his way back to China.

Hu was greeted and accompanied by President Raul Castro for much of his visit. Hu reportedly brought 4.5 tons of humanitarian assistance in response to the three hurricanes that hit Cuba in the past three months. On November 17, Castro and Hu attended a ceremony where, according to the official (state) press, the following agreements were signed: an economic and technical cooperation agreement calling for an USD 8 million donation by the Chinese government; a five year deferment on payment of a USD 7 million credit granted in March 1998; the deferment of payment until 2018 for the trade imbalance (not quantified) accrued between 1994-1995; the release of a USD 70 million credit to rebuild and repair hospitals from a USD 350 million credit facility established on Hu's last visit in 2004; and an agreement of mutual recognition of higher education diplomas.

These are in addition to the following agreements signed this same week at the 21st session of the China-Cuba Inter-governmental Commission for Economic Commercial relations: renewed contracts for the purchase of Cuban nickel and sugar; the Chinese supply of galvanized roofing material for Guantanamo province; continuing rehabilitation of Cuban ports; further cooperation in biotechnology; renovating Cuba's seismology network; and the building of a third Cuban eye hospital in China.

The morning of Hu's arrival, the Cuban communist party newspaper Granma ran an article titled "China Continues Demonstrating the Validity of Socialism." While highlighting how socialist China is a shining example for all of the Third World, the article referenced Fidel Castro's remarks from Hu's last visit to Cuba in November 2004 that seemed to indicate that the China model is not for Cuba. Fidel said that while "socialism remains the only real hope for peace and better living for our species...each people must adapt their strategy and revolutionary objectives to the concrete conditions of their own country, and two identical socialist revolutionary processes do not exist."

While neither the visit itself nor the number of agreements signed were particularly remarkable (China signed 16 agreements with Cuba on Hu's last visit in 2004), the publicity afforded the event - including a rare photo with Fidel Castro - was extensive. We expect a similar media blitz when Russian President Medvedev comes calling next week. It's possible that the regime is turning to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) as an alternative to Venezuela.

Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and China's second highest ranking party official, arrived in Havana on 01 September 2009 to meet with his Cuban counterpart, Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly. According to the press, Wu and Alarcon oversaw the signing of a series of agreements on September 2, including: USD 260 million credit from the Chinese ExIm Bank for the purchase of 10 grain ships; USD 300 million credit from the Chinese ExIm Bank for the continuation of an info-communications program and the implementation of a project to produce radio and television transmitters and satellite receptors; a new line of credit from the China-Caribbean Fund to invest in television and the modernization of Cuban ports; and USD 19 million dollars (nine million donated, nine million credit, and one million preferential line of credit) for investment projects to be identified by the Cubans.

The agreements, actually signed by Chinese Deputy Trade Minister Ma Xiu Hong and Cuban Council of Ministers Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas, also included the Chinese donation of 60 traffic lights and "high tech" office equipment for the Cuban National Assembly. Finally, both sides agreed to evaluate the feasibility of cooperation on building a slaughter house and a fruit and vegetable canning factory in the eastern province of Guantanamo.

Wu visited with Cuban President Raul Castro later on 02 September 2009, and then reportedly had a two-hour conversation with former president (and still Communist Party leader) Fidel Castro on September 3. According to the Cuban press, Wu and Fidel discussed bilateral relations, the financial downturn, and climate change. Wu said bilateral relationship between the two countries was at its best point in history. This talking point was repeated by both parties at various meetings. Little to no substance from Wu's meetings with each Castro has surfaced. Rather, the international press has mainly focused on the photo released from the meeting showing Fidel outside and dressed in regular civilian clothing, instead of his traditional track suit. Raul Castro escorted Wu and his delegation to the airport on September 3. From Cuba, Wu was headed to The Bahamas September 3-6 and then Phoenix, Arizona on September 6 at the invitation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Also from 1-3 September 2009, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla visited Beijing where he met with his counterpart Yang Jiechi, Vice President Xi Jinping, Council of State member Dai Bingguo, and Director of International Relations for the Chinese Communist Party Wang Jiarui. No agreements were signed, and the official press agencies in both countries only highlighted a litany of mutual praise and support from all parties. Rodriguez concluded his visit by delivering a speech to a conference at the Academy of Social Sciences on "Cuba: Native and Viable Socialism."

From China, Rodriguez traveled to North Korea September 3-5 to meet with Choe Thae Bok, secretary of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pak Ui Chun, and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Hyong Jun. The Cubans and North Koreans praised their historic ties and historic leaders. According to North Korean official press, Rodriguez emphasized that the Cuban people are following with keen interest how the Korean people are foiling the moves of the U.S. imperialists for aggression, true to the military-first politics.

Following these meetings, Cuban Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas traveled to Beijing on 06 September 2009 to participate in the 22nd Session of the Intergovernmental Commission for economic and commercial relations and attend the Investment and Trade Fair in Xiamen September 8-9. The Cuban press reported that Cabrisas would sign a memorandum of understanding on biotechnology cooperation with his Chinese counterparts.

In 2013, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Cuba continued to grow their mutually beneficial, friendly and cooperative relations at a fast pace and expand their exchanges and cooperation in various fields. China and Cuba supported each other in international affairs. At the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, China voted in favor of Cuba's draft resolution entitled Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States of America Against Cuba for the 22nd time in a row. The two sides carried out close cooperation and coordination on elections at multilateral organizations and on such issues as human rights and climate change.

Economic cooperation and trade proceeded smoothly. China is Cuba's second largest trading partner, and Cuba is China's largest trading partner in the Caribbean region. Bilateral cooperation moved forward steadily in digital TV, agriculture, biological science and technology and infrastructure. Investment and trade promotion agencies of the two countries continued to promote mutual understanding between their enterprises through such important platforms as China International Fair for Investment and Trade, China Import and Export Fair, Havana International Fair and Cuba-China Business Council. Cuba's purchase of bulk carriers and port cranes was completed. In September, the XXVI Session of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Economic and Trade Relations was held in Beijing.

Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Havana, the capital of Cuba, on 24 September 2016 for an official visit at the invitation of Raul Castro Ruz, president of the Cuban Council of State and Council of Ministers. Miguel Diaz-Canel, first vice-president of the Cuban Council of State and Council of Ministers, other senior Cuban officials and Zhang Tuo, Chinese ambassador to Cuba, welcomed Premier Li and his wife Cheng Hong at the airport. During his visit to Cuba, Premier Li held talks with Raul Castro, visit the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and attend people-to-people and cultural exchanges with Cuban leaders. The two countries signed nearly 30 governmental agreements and business deals, covering fields like economy, technology, finance, production capacity cooperation, communications, new energy, and inspection and quarantine.

February 8, 2017, Ambassador Chen Xi in Cuba to visit the Minister of Cuba's Interior Minister Mary Ortega. The two sides respectively introduced the trade policies of their respective countries, focusing on promoting the two countries to strengthen cooperation in the field of trade and other issues exchanged views.

China's exports to Cuba reached a record $1.9 billion in 2015, nearly 60 percent above the annual average of the previous decade, and were at $1.8 billion in 2016 as the flow of oil and cash slowed from Venezuela. China's growing presence gave its enterprises a head start over US competitors in Cuba's opening market.

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Page last modified: 16-02-2017 12:34:59 ZULU