Cuban Ambassador discusses China, Havana’s fight against unilateralism

China-Cuban relationships were established in an unstable world in the 1960s, and after many years, today the two sides are standing together as they once were, in the face of the new challenges of unilateralism and protectionism.

During a recent visit by the Cuban Foreign Minister to China Bruno Rodriguez and the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Wang reiterated China's stance to the world in regards to China-Cuban ties. "China and Cuba should work with other countries to safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and oppose unilateralism and protectionism. China will, as always, support Cuba's just fight against foreign interference and blockade," Wang said, according to the Xinhua News Agency on May 29. 

The development of China, especially in the past 40 years, has uplifted the country to be the second largest economy in the world and provided great opportunities for the development of Latin American countries like Cuba, which holds strong relationships with China. 

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Global Times spoke with the Cuban Ambassador to China Miguel Ángel Ramírez about the future perspectives of China-Cuban relations.

Embrace BRI

A new China-made train left Cuba's capital, Havana, for Santiago, the country's second largest city on July 13. It is Cuba's first new train in more than 40 years. The Cuban government hopes to overhaul its rail system in the future with the help of countries like China, according to a GT report on July 15. 

This is one of many indications of China's advanced technologies that have been applied for upgrading the transportation to benefit the Cuban people. In a broader sense, this train echoes the role of connectivity that China is willing to play not just within its own country, but between the two countries for common prosperity.

According to a report by Xinhua News Agency on April 30, China and Cuba have identified several areas to enhance bilateral ties within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation. The BRI has drawn growing interest from the Cuban government.

As the Cuban Ambassador to China, Ramírez has been to many Chinese provinces, met different people and had conversations with Chinese media. Wherever he went and whomever he talked with, one thing that he would always like to reiterate is the importance of the BRI and that Cuba embraces this initiative.

"Cuba attaches great willingness to take part in the BRI. We embraced it since the beginning and in November last year we signed a MoU (memorandum of understanding) between Cuba and China, so that Cuba can be officially part of this," the ambassador said. "Furthermore, in the recent BRI forum in April, we had a high-level delegation led by Gladys Maria Bejerano, the Vice President of the Council of State of Cuba."

Cuba sees the BRI as a new type of globalization. Ramírez said that it is not the "neoliberal" globalization led by the US, but the globalization that is based on mutual benefits. "Many Caribbean countries have problems with 'connectivity,' an area in which Cuba is willing to play a role," he noted.

Stand up for multilateralism

Both China and Cuba stand up for multilateralism and they believe what unilateralism doesn't benefit any country. China and Cuba have been working together for many years and both are socialist countries, and therefore have a united common view of the world.

As a strong supporter of the BRI, Ramírez feels strongly about the importance for both sides to promote multilateralism together in today's world.

In June, the Trump administration decided to increase sanctions on Cuba with a set of policy measures that include tightening the failed embargo and further limiting travel to the country, putting pressure on the already weakened Cuban economy. The ambassador believes that like the trade war that the US started with China, the sanctions on Cuba is one of the actions that showcased the Trump administration's break of multilateralism.

"China considers Cuba as a brother and partner, and we share that view. So both countries have been working very strongly to oppose unilateralism and long-arm jurisdiction that are sanctioned without being approved by the UN Security Council," he said. "We promote multilateralism, democracy, and globalization that are based on win-win cooperation." The ambassador noted that Cuba supports China in its position on the trade war and welcomes Chinese technology companies like Huawei.

Learn from China

Having been in China for almost three years, Ramírez is impressed by the modernization of today's China. He contributed to China's development over the last 40 years, since the launch of the reform and opening-up policy. He was excited about the fact that more than 700 million people were lifted out of poverty in the past decades, and agrees that China is an important leader in global development. 

"There is a good saying that Mao Zedong made us stand up, Deng Xiaoping made us prosperous, and Xi Jinping made us strong, which, to me, is a good review of what China has achieved in the last 70 years," the ambassador said, adding that Cuba always verifies from China's past experiences, sees what China has done, and how those experiences can be applied to Cuba.

Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and Cuba, which will mark a time to share memorable stories on both sides. Ramírez is also a witness of these longstanding relationship.

"As Cuba is a tiny island in front of the US, in September 1960, we decided to establish ties with the new China, the 'red' China that the Americans used to call it in the 1960s," he said. "That was a time when Cuba just had its revolution in 1959 and when Taiwan was still a member of the UN Security Council. So, it was really a brave decision and it was particularly relevant because it was done in a public rally in front of one million people and the Cuban people applauded the decisions of the Cuban government to establish diplomatic ties with the new China. These are the things that we are celebrating."

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban musicians release album featuring traditional Chinese songs

Acclaimed Cuban a cappella musical group Vocal Sampling released their latest album "Bu Bu Gao" in Beijing Friday.

The album features a number of traditional Chinese songs adapted for a cappella performance, accompanied by several traditional Cuban music pieces.

The group also announced their plan for a tour in south China's Guangdong Province from Aug. 7 to 9.

This was the first album released by the time-honored vocal group in China, as part of a Chinese music project aiming to revitalize the country's traditional music.

The project, jointly initiated by China Record Group and 13 Month Culture Communication, a Beijing-based art company, gathers musicians from across the country and abroad in a bid to revive the country's best traditional music pieces.

So far, the project has finished the recording of 20 music albums and hosted more than 50 live performances.

  • Published in Culture

China, US Resume Negotiations to Resolve Trade War

China and the United States went back to the negotiating table this Tuesday, this time in Shanghai, to try to resolve their differences and end the trade war they have been waging for more than a year.

The resumption of these talks is the result of the truce agreed between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump during their meeting at the G20 summit held in June in Japan.

Talks between Beijing and Washington have been frozen since May when the White House raised tariffs on Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent, forcing China to respond with similar measures.

This twelfth round of talks began in the midst of apparent skepticism given the recent misunderstandings between the two powers and so far not much detail has been leaked from the meeting.

As usual, Deputy Prime Minister Liu He chairs China's negotiating team, this time accompanied by Trade Minister Zhong Shan, who did not participate on previous occasions.

Meanwhile, on the U.S. side also repeat, Robert Lighthizer, commercial representative and Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin.

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Russia-China joint bomber patrol meets Japanese & S. Korean fighters, but missions will go on

Russian and Chinese strategic bombers have flown their first mission together over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. Tokyo and Seoul are up in arms, but Moscow points out it's all within international rules and regulations.

Two Russian Tu-95ms and two Chinese Xian H-6 bombers patrolled a pre-planned route above the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, “strictly in accordance with international law,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. 

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Seoul claims the bombers breached its air defense identification zone (KADIZ), but Moscow insists this designation is not supported by any international rules and that no third country's airspace was violated.

In its own response to the intercept, China reminded South Korea that KADIZ is not recognized as part of a country's airspace and is thus free for other countries’ aircraft to pass through. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson also warned Seoul to “be careful when using the word 'invasion'.”

The route apparently took the aircraft close to a set of tiny islands in the Sea of Japan, known as the Dokdo islands in South Korea and as Takeshima in Japan, and contested by both nations.

The countries subsequently scrambled its military aircraft to ward off the bombers. South Korea also claimed its jets had to fire “warning shots,” but Moscow insists these were only flares.

South Korea also claimed its jets had to fire “warning shots,” but Moscow insists these were only flares. The latter has accused the South Koreans of acting “unprofessionally” and of putting the Russian bombers’ safety at risk by dangerously cutting across their course.

The first-ever joint patrol of the long-range aviation in the Pacific was the beginning of a wider program, which aims to boost the Russian and Chinese militaries' ability to work together, Moscow says. The planned program stretches at least for the remainder of the year and is “not aimed at against third countries.”

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China welcomes US-Russia talks on arms control but sees no reason to participate in negotiations

Beijing will not discuss a nuclear weapons treaty but welcomes arms control talks between the US and Russia, China’s Foreign Ministry said, pouring cold water on Donald Trump’s claim that Beijing was open to negotiations.

Washington hopes to begin drafting a nuclear weapons treaty with Moscow at a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday. China, however, will not take part in the summit, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“At the moment, we see no reason or preconditions for China’s participation in such discussions,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday. He stated that “Russia has also repeatedly expressed its understanding regarding China’s position on this issue.”

China fully supports any talks on the issue, but believes the world’s two leading nuclear powers should take the lead in non-proliferation negotiations, Geng added.

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The announcement will likely deflate Washington’s stated goal of inking a trilateral accord that includes Beijing. US President Donald Trump tweeted in December that he was “certain” he would discuss arms control with his Russian and Chinese counterparts “at some time in the future.”

In May, Trump claimed that Beijing “would very much like to be part” of a three-way deal with the US and Russia, going so far as to say that the Chinese were “more excited about it than [about] trade.”

Former US diplomat Jim Jatras told RT in April that it seemed unlikely that China would agree to talks, given Washington’s record for tearing up past agreements, such as the Iran nuclear deal and the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty.

“The US is not agreement capable,” he said. “Any agreement we make is simply not going to be honored by the US side.”

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China threatens to sever ties with any US firm linked to selling weapons to Taiwan

The Chinese foreign ministry has warned that American firms would be banned from doing business in China if they are involved in any arms deals with Taiwan.

“In order to safeguard national interests, China will impose sanctions on US companies involved in arms sales to Taiwan,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Monday. “The Chinese government and Chinese companies will not cooperate and do business with these US firms,” he added.

Answering reporters’ questions, Geng said the details about such companies and the timeline of any penalties against them will not be disclosed at present.

Beijing warned Washington last week “not to play with fire” and to cancel a planned $2.2 billion arms deal with Taiwan, accusing the US of interfering in China’s domestic affairs.

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The Pentagon is looking to make a major sale of weapons to Taiwan, including 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, as well as mounted machine guns and ammunition.

The planned arms sale would violate Beijing’s ‘One China’ principle, which views Taiwan as an integral part of China.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, took office in May 2016. China suspects her of seeking formal independence with support from Washington.

The Taiwanese leader, who arrived in New York City on Friday on a two-night “transit” stop on her way to visit four Caribbean nations, dismissed the Chinese criticism of both her visit and the arms deal.

“We don't need our neighbor to make irresponsible remarks,” she told reporters, according to Taiwan's official Central News Agency.

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Tsai has also rejected Chinese pressure to reunite Taiwan and China under the “one-country, two-systems” framework that governs Hong Kong.

She said: “Hong Kong’s experience under ‘one country, two systems’ has shown the world once and for all that authoritarianism and democracy cannot coexist.”

Beijing has urged Washington to abide by the ‘one China principle’ and to “not allow Tsai Ing-wen’s stopover, cease official exchanges with Taiwan, and refrain from providing any platform for separatist Taiwan independence forces.”

  • Published in World

Russia, China, Iran & Venezuela developing crypto to challenge US financial control – study

A new report by the American Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) says the US’ geopolitical adversaries are deploying blockchain technology to help avoid sanctions and counter US financial power.

According to the FDD, with the increase of adoption of cryptocurrencies around the world, efforts are underway to build new systems for transferring value that work outside of conventional banking infrastructure.

Governments in Russia, China, Iran, and Venezuela are experimenting with the technology that underpins the crypto market, said the report. They are prioritizing blockchain technology as a “key component of their efforts to counter US financial power.”

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“Russia, Iran, and Venezuela have initiated blockchain technology experiments that their leaders paint as tools to offset US financial coercive power and increase sanctions resistance. China is also wary of US financial power and the ever-present threat of sanctions against Chinese officials,” the study finds.

The efforts of the four nations go beyond mere sanctions evasion, according to the report, which said that they “seek to reduce the potency of unilateral and multilateral sanctions by developing alternative payment systems for global commerce.”

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The authors of the report noted that the US position of influence is not necessarily permanent.

“Technology has created a potential pathway to alternative financial value transfer systems outside of US control. The target timeline may be two to three decades, but these actors are developing the building blocks now. They envision a world in which cryptocurrency technology helps them eclipse US financial power, much the way that the dollar once eclipsed the British pound.”

  • Published in World

‘Don’t play with fire’: Beijing warns US over Taiwan

China strongly warned Washington against shipping weapons to Taiwan, and urged the US to consider the “gravity” of the issue after the Pentagon authorized selling tanks to Taipei.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi blasted Washington for allowing arm sales to Taiwan during his trip to Hungary on Friday.

“We urge the US to fully recognize the gravity of the Taiwan question… [and] not to play with fire on the question of Taiwan,” he told reporters via an interpreter, cited by Reuters.

Beijing considers Taiwan its territory and opposes its recognition as an independent country. The US, which does not formally recognize Taiwan in accordance with the ‘one-China principle’, had made diplomatic overtures towards the island nation under President Donald Trump. In 2016, he became the first US leader in more than 30 years to speak over the phone with his Taiwanese counterpart, Tsai Ing-wen. The move prompted a protest by Beijing.

Also on China threatens sanctions against US companies selling weapons to Taiwan...

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that it had authorized the sale of M1A2T Abrams tanks and FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan. China heavily criticized this decision, saying it undermines the ‘one-China principle’, and demanded to “immediately cancel” the potential sale.

The row over Taiwan adds to the tensions between the US and China, sparked by the ongoing trade war.

  • Published in World
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