China riding wave of success

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 18, 2018 - Introducing the top teams in the current world rankings, the first installment in this series takes a look at the team ranked number 1 in women's volleyball - Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games gold medallists China.

The 2015 FIVB World Cup winners, 2016 Olympic champions and 2017 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup winners – China’s women have won a major international volleyball title in each of the last three years.

They would love to make it two in 2018. As the number one team in the world, the ladies from the Middle Kingdom go into the keenly-anticipated inaugural season of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League as the hot favourite.

The competition takes on even greater importance when you look at last season, when the Chinese had to settle for a disappointing fourth place at the final round of the last ever FIVB World Grand Prix on home soil in Nanjing.

This year also throws up a second highlight, in the form of the Japan 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championships. China are hungry to win gold again, after 32 years – last time out, in 2014, they had to make do with the silver medal, following a final defeat to the USA.

“My team and I try to win every match. I hope the Chinese women's volleyball team will always develop and become better,” said Zhu Ting in an interview with the FIVB.

Coming from the mouth of the captain of the national team, this sounds almost like a threat to the opposition. After all, China has been the outstanding team in recent years, and MVP Zhu Ting has been a huge part of that success. The team and the millions of fans in China are looking forward to the FIVB Nations League – particularly as they will welcome the top teams to their home tournaments.

China faces the Dominican Republic, Belgium and South Korea on the opening weekend in Ningbo, China, from 15th to 17th May. Following tournaments in Macau and Hong Kong, they then return to Jianmen for the showdown against fellow favourites Brazil, who won the last FIVB World Grand Prix, world champions the USA, and record world champions Russia. These are exactly the matches the fans want to see – and the FIVB Volleyball Nations League is making this possible.

The “eternal” duel with Brazil enters its next round in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. In 2017, the South Americans won the first title of the season at the FIVB World Grand Prix – in China, of all places.

China then took revenge at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Grand Champions Cup. They defeated their South American rivals 3-2 (25-20, 25-12, 20-25, 23-25, 19-17) in what proved to be the decisive match of the six-team tournament, which was played in a round robin format. The Chinese fended off two match points to clinch that all-important victory, which was a repeat of the Olympic quarter-final in Rio, where China ended Brazilian dreams of a home win. It goes without saying that the match winner in a top-class game at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium was Zhu Ting with 33 points.

It ultimately came down to a battle of nerves between two outstanding teams, and Zhu Ting made the difference with a total of 100 points from China’s five victories. The hitter was also leading scorer.

Even after this latest success, China’s coach An Jiajie still sees room for improvement: “We are very happy to be the champions and I want to express my deep gratitude to my players and coaches. There is still room for improvement in critical areas and that will be our next challenge. It was the first year of the new Olympic cycle, so this was an important year for us.”

China will aim to make 2018 another memorable year – by continuing their title-winning run in the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

Star of the team: Zhu Ting
Zhu Ting (23) is currently regarded as probably the best female volleyball player in the world. In 2015, she guided her Chinese team to success at the FIVB World Cup as the tournament’s MVP. One year later, she was again named MVP as she helped China to a historic gold at the Olympic Games in Rio.

In 2017, she won the FIVB Club World Championship with her new club Vakifbank Istanbul and was awarded MVP again. Zhu Ting also won the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup with China – naturally as the outstanding player and MVP. Despite her young age, the extraordinary hitter is now captain of the Chinese team. In spite of all this success, she has kept her feet planted firmly on the ground: “Volleyball is a wonderful sport. That’s important for me, and my team is important.”

Zhu Ting is a star in China, and is recognised when she walks down the street. A lot of her success is down to legendary coach “Jenny” Lang Ping, who led the team to Olympic success in Rio, among other titles: “It's very important that Lang Ping taught me a lot of techniques. I’m as good as I am and have today's technology thanks to Lang Ping. I'm very lucky in volleyball, because so many people helped me on my way. I wouldn’t be here without them. Talent and hard work are equally important.” Zhu Ting is looking to add to what is already a remarkable career – at least by the 2024 Olympic Games.

  • Published in Sports

U.S: Time Bomb?

The U.S. president has been characterized by his rhetoric so far. But his recent decisions set off alarms among the world’s most distinguished politicians and experts.

The imposition of duties to the People’s Republic of China is a major threat to the international order.

Such decision emerges when the world is going through a bloodcurdling economic crisis that has several nations unsettled. In this regard, misery, unemployment, and other social disasters are multiplied.

World observers highlight that such marked protectionism leads to limit multilateralism and affects international trade.

As soon as Trump announced the decision, the Wall Street Stock Exchange dropped and a response of the People’s Republic of China is awaited.

Thus, Washington creates a climate of insecurity, which affects some of the world’s markets.

That is, as the Spanish newspaper EL PAIS stated: “The unforeseen event or black swan that could jeopardize global growth this year. We fear it and it is happening.”

The newspaper also notes that the imposition of duties is an exercise of paranoia and a clear example of the ignorance of the elementary economic principles.

The effects of such procedure are materialized in the decline in growth, higher inflation, and unemployment.

These measures result in chaos and uncertainty in an already deteriorated international trade.

The abovementioned fact ratifies a U.S. policy that distances itself from the international economic cooperation and aims to damage the economy of million people all around the world.

The appointment of “Hawk” John Bolton as national security adviser confirms it. Bolton supports the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran and promotes a military confrontation with North Korea.

The early dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Gary Cohn as main economic consultant in the White House corroborates the far-right trend and aggressive nationalism of the Trump Administration.

Europe will suffer the effects of such mess created by the multimillionaire in an already messy world.

There is one fact we cannot miss. There will be elections in the U.S. in November.

Therefore, most of voters, who have greatly suffer Trump’s insane notions, will have the ability to change their future.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz // CubaSi Translation Staff

US Is Stepping on the Cuban Rake Again

The relations with the Republic of Cuba have long been one of the most painful problems of the United States. Even after the withdrawal of its main ally – the USSR – from the global stage, all the US attempts to get Cuba under its influence have failed. Lately, Cuba has acquired a new strong ally – China.

The deterioration of the US-Cuban relations occurred in the middle of the 20th century due to a number of mistakes made by the US leadership. In the 19th century, America helped Cuba in its struggle for independence from Spain. Since that time, it has considered this small island state as a part of its area of influence ignoring construction of mutually beneficial cooperation. After the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the new leader of the Republic of Cuba Fidel Castro visited the USA. However, the American President of that time Dwight Eisenhower refused to meet. Such neglect on the part of the American leadership accelerated the downfall of the US-Cuban relations and promoted the strengthening of cooperation between Cuba and the USSR.

Soon, expulsion of the American capital from the Island of Freedom began. Many companies, banks, and factories owned by the US citizens were nationalized.

Instead of taking attempts on establishing friendly relations, America responded by strong economic and political pressure. In 1960, America stopped the oil supply to Cuba and imports of the Cuban sugar. It was a strong blow for the Cuban economy. However, the Soviet Union came for assistance. In 1961, Fidel Castro announced the socialist orientation of the Cuba, after which America ruptured diplomatic relations with it. In early 1962, Washington imposed a ban on trade with Cuba for all American companies.

Very soon America paid a heavy price for underestimation of the new Cuban leadership and for its habit of solving issues by force. In autumn 1962, the Soviet missiles with nuclear warheads were located on the Island of Freedom, after which the Cuban missile crisis broke out putting the USA on the verge of a nuclear war with the USSR. Perhaps, it was the time when the USA felt sorry for its policy towards Republic of Cuba. The isle of Cuba is located 180 km away from the US coast, and missiles located there could easily reach Washington and many other strategic facilities in America.

Fortunately, military clash was prevented. Nonetheless, the opposition between the USA and Cuba continued even after the USSR breakup.

Some thaw in relations was reached during the presidency of Barack Obama (2008-2016). The weakening of the US economic sanctions against Cuba started in early 2015. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were resumed in July 2015. A number of trade barriers were lifted in 2015-2016. Certain categories of the US citizens were allowed to visit Cuba. The air service between the countries was also resumed.

However, these insignificant achievements were brought to naught after the acting US President Donald J. Trump moved to the Office. Prior to his election in November 2016, Trump stated that America made too many concessions for the Republic of Cuba to the detriment of its own interests. Donald Trump also announced his intention to cancel the decision of Barack Obama if the Cuban leadership failed to meet a number of US requirements.

In June 2017, Donald Trump announced cancellation of the US-Cuban agreement on normalization of relations due to the violation of the human rights in the Republic of Cuba. He demanded the Cuban government to elaborate a new agreement that meets the US interests. The Republic of Cuba flatly refused.

In November 2017, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Cuba. The American citizens are prohibited to carry out financial transactions with institutions related to the Cuban security agencies and make private educational visits to Cuba.

The story of the 1960s, when the rough US policy pushed Cuba away and contributed to the development of relations with the USSR, is apparently repeating. The difference is that now the leader of the communist world is the People’s Republic of China.

China has long been a reliable partner for Cuba. Cuba was the first Latin American country to recognize China as a country in 1960 and established diplomatic relations with it.

In 2008, China’s leader Hu Jintao declared that the Communist Party of China intended to keep friendship with Cuba and support it in building socialism and confronting the United States.

Now the economic and political interaction between Cuba and China is experiencing a period of the rapid development. In 2015, the Chinese imports to Cuba reached a record level of $1.9 billion. Cuba buys Chinese automobile and agricultural equipment, household appliances, PCs, and many other goods. China’s business is rapidly developing on the Island of Freedom. In early 2017, the media reported China’s intention to invest about $500 million in the new resort close to Havana. The Chinese Haier factory producing computer hardware launched its work in Cuba in 2017. In early 2018, the Chinese-Cuban projects in the sphere of renewable energy resources have started, and China is planning to give a loan worth $120 million to Cuba for this purpose. China has already became Cuba’s main creditor.

The growing presence of China in close proximity to the US territory causes anxiety of many American politicians, but Trump’s administration stubbornly continues its policy. As it was a half the century ago, it results in a number of unpleasant consequences for America.

As mentioned above, the isles of the Republic of Cuba are in close proximity to the USA. Therefore, the deployment of the nuclear weapon in Cuba was important for the USSR under its project of containment their possible enemy – the USA.

In addition, the importance of Cuba’s location is not only in the proximity to the USA but to the Panama Canal as well. This Canal that separates the two American continents and unites the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans has huge importance for the global trade. About 5% of the cargo shipping on the planet passes through it.

As you know, the main task for the Chinese foreign policy now is the implementation of the project the One Belt – One Road (OBOR), under which China and its partners intend to create a global transport system. While speaking about the OBOR, they usually mean the merger of the Eurasian and African countries in one transport network. In fact, this project does not have restrictions, and the Latin American states also perfectly fit into it. Cuba is not the only country where China expands its presence. China is working actively with all the states and pushing out America from them at the same time. Even now China is the main trade partner of Brazil, Peru, and Chile – the most economically developed countries of South America. It also develops cooperation with Mexico. Every year, China’s influence is also growing in Panama, through which territory the Panama Canal flows.

However, Cuba has particular importance as a possible stronghold of China in the Caribbean Sea. If China, as the USSR back in the day receives permission from the Cuban authorities to deploy its armed forces on the island, it will be able to ensure the safety of navigation through the Panama Canal and control all shipping in the Caribbean Sea. This fact will finally turn China in the prime force in Latin America and put an end to the US domination in this region.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban cigar sales hit record as China demand surges

On a roll

A surge in sales of Cuba's legendary cigars in China helped manufacturer Habanos S.A.'s global revenue rise 12 percent to hit a record of around $500 million last year, the company said on Monday at the start of Cuba's annual cigar festival.

Sudden demand in China

Habanos S.A., a 50-50 joint venture between the Cuban state and Britain's Imperial Brands Plc, said sales in China, its third export market after Spain and France, jumped 33 percent in value in 2017.

"Without doubt, there is potential for China to become the biggest market at a global level," Habanos Vice President of Development Jose María Lopez told Reuters after the company's annual news conference, while puffing on a smoke.

Best in the world

The Cuban cigar company's hand-rolled cigars, which include brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo and Partagas, are considered by many as the best in the world, and the festival attracts wealthy tobacco aficionados and retailers from all over for a week of extravagant parties and tours of plantations and factories.

Lopez said that growth in global sales of Cuban cigars last year outpaced the luxury goods market, which expanded 5 percent, according to consultancy Bain & Co. He put sales growth down to several good tobacco harvests and new products.

The Habanos executive said the outlook was also positive, given solid demand and "excellent" climatic conditions. Hurricane Irma, which wrought havoc throughout much of Cuba last year, left the western, prime tobacco-growing state of Pinar del Rio mostly unscathed.

Top exports for Cuban economy

Cigars are one of the top exports for the Cuban economy.

However, the Caribbean island cannot sell its signature export to the biggest market worldwide for cigars, the United States, due to the decades-old US trade embargo.

Trump's hostility has no effect on sales

Improved US-Cuba relations under former US President Barack Obama stoked a boom in international travel to Cuba and boosted cigar sales on the island, with American visitors able to take home as many cigars as they wanted.

Lopez said US President Donald Trump's more hostile policy toward Cuba, including tighter restrictions on US travel, did not appear to have impacted sales so far. Domestic revenue rose around 15 percent last year.

"We trust that despite Trump's measures the Cuban market will continue to grow in 2018," he said.

Cuban symbol

Cigars have been Cuba's signature product ever since Christopher Columbus saw natives smoking rolled up tobacco leaves when he first sailed to the Caribbean island in 1492.

Late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was often seen puffing on his favored kind, the long and thin 'lancero', until he quit in 1985.

  • Published in Cuba

China Rio 2016 captain Hui bids farewell to active duty

After overcoming huge personal obstacles to lead China to triumph at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Hui Ruoqi is finally calling it quits, retiring from active duty according to reports in the Chinese media.

An emotional retirement ceremony for the 26-year-old outside hitter, who captained China to their epic 3-1 win over Serbia in the Olympic final at the Maracanazinho two years ago, was held during the China League match of her club Jiangsu at the close of the Regular Season over the weekend. Jiangsu beat Shanghai in five sets and made it to the semifinals of the national competition.

This puts an end to a brilliant 18-year career, during which Hui underwent multiple surgeries, including on her heart, but always came back to thrill her millions of fans at home and across the world.

  • Published in Sports

Carlos Tévez Quits Chinese Football to Re-join Boca Juniors

Argentine footballer Carlos Tévez rescinded his contractual relationship with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua and everything was ready for his return to Boca Juniors.

The Apache and Shanghai reached an agreement to terminate the contract, so the player is free to sign for any team.

Daniel Angelici, president of Boca, said recently that it would take 'less than an hour' to hire Tevez, once he had put an end to his adventure through Chinese lands.

Therefore, it is expected that from one moment to another the return of Tevez to Boca Juniors is announced, the club that 'saw him be born' and led him to stardom.

After debuting at Boca Juniors as a professional footballer, the Argentine international played for Corinthians, West Ham, Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and Shanghai Shenhua.

He arrived in the Chinese club in January 2017, after signing an extravagant contract, which guaranteed a salary of 40 million dollars per season, thus becoming the highest paid player in the world.

  • Published in Sports

China: 'US Has No Right to Act as Human-Rights Judge'

"We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge," said China's Foreign Ministry. 

Chinese officials have slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for sanctioning public security official Gao Yan, insisting that the United States has no right to act as a "human-rights judge."

RELATED: China Releases Human Rights Report on US: 'Terrible Problems'

In March 2014, Yan was head of the Chaoyan Detention Center, in Beijing, where rights activist Cao Shunli was detained and interrogated, according to Reuters, before dying in hospital while in police custody.

Human-rights groups have said that Shunli was both tortured and prevented from receiving medical care before she died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has now issued an executive order targeting Yan, blocking the property of foreign nationals involved in human-rights abuses.

Four Russians, including the head of the republic of Chechnya, were also placed on the sanctions list known as the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law which inters the bank assets of those targeted.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said: "We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge." 

She went on to state that the Asian country's police maintain public safety according to Chinese laws and the United States should refrain from using its domestic jurisprudence to determine which foreign nationals should be sanctioned.

Beijing officials have often criticized Washington for scrutinizing China's human-rights record. Earlier this year, China's State Council released its own report, denouncing the United States for its "terrible human-rights problems."

"With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human-rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," the report said.

  • Published in World

China, Cuba sign agreements to expand economic, trade ties

China and Cuba on Wednesday signed five cooperation and legal agreements, which reaffirm the willingness of both nations to strengthen and expand their economic and trade relations.

According to local media, Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, and Chen Xi, the Chinese ambassador to Cuba, signed the documents, including a donation of one million U.S. dollars by the Chinese government to help the recovery of areas affected by Hurricane Irma.

Both nations also formalized a new credit line granted by China to remodel and modernize Cuba's electronic industry.

The Cuban official said these new agreements are a sign of the "friendship and brotherhood" between China and Cuba.

"The accords are aimed at supporting the process of recovery of the damages caused by Hurricane Irma. China was one of the first nations to express its condolences and willingness to help," added Malmierca.

Both sides signed a record of delivery and receipt of emergency humanitarian aid granted by China, consisting of relief materials such as tents, generators, mattresses, blankets, water pumps, and lighting, among others.

Chen said these new legal documents and agreements are a "testimony of the existing friendly relations between the two countries."

"Immediately after the impact of the hurricane, the Chinese government prepared a humanitarian aid package aimed at helping Cuba succeed in its recovery," he added.

In 2016, China became Cuba's biggest commercial partner with bilateral trade reaching 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Cuban Bureau of Statistics and Information.

  • Published in Cuba
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