Chinese president visits Cuba's Heroic City

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday visited the historically glorious city of Santiago de Cuba, and stressed that only by remembering history can nations create a better future.

Accompanied by Cuban leader Raul Castro, Xi flew to the Cuban "Heroic City," where he laid a wreath at the tomb of Jose Marti, a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature.

The Chinese president also visited the Moncada Barracks, where former Cuban leader Fidel Castro launched a failed assault on July 26, 1953, which is widely considered as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. The barracks have now been turned into a museum and a school city.

Speaking at the July 26 Historical Museum, Xi noted that both China and Cuba boast a glorious revolutionary history and that "revolutionary martyrs are precious spiritual treasures that have inspired us to continuously march forward."

Only those who remember history deserve a better future, stressed the Chinese president.

In a friendly interaction with an enthusiastic crowd at the square in front of the municipal government, Xi said the Cuban people is a heroic people and Santiago de Cuba is a heroic city.

Beijing, he added, is confident that under the leadership of President Raul Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba, the Caribbean country will make greater achievements on the socialist path that fits its national conditions.

The two leaders also held a new round of talks to further exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern.

Seeing Xi off at the airport, Castro said Xi's state visit to his country is a complete success, with the two sides reaching many new important agreements on further promoting China-Cuba relations.

He also congratulated Xi on rounding off a fruitful visit to Latin America.

For his part, Xi expressed his deep appreciation of the profound affection the Cuban Communist Party, government and people hold towards China, and conveyed his wish that bilateral relations will advance steadily and bilateral friendship will last forever.

Cuba is the last leg of Xi's four-nation Latin America tour, which has already taken him to Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. While in Brazil, he attended the sixth summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS and a meeting with Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

 

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China, Cuba sign cooperation agreements during Xi's visit

China and Cuba on Tuesday signed an array of 29 cooperation agreements to support the Caribbean country's development and enhance bilateral ties as President Xi Jinping paid his first-ever state visit to Cuba.  [Special coverage]

Among the deals, China's Bank of Import and Export offered Cuba a 730 million RMB ($115 million) loan for Santiago Port, Cuba's second-largest port, to boost the country's infrastructure construction and facilitate better trade.

Under another deal, China Minmentals Cooperatiowill also be spending $600 million in buying Cuba nickel ore.

The two sides also agreed to cooperate in building a pilot agriculture park in Cuba, with the Chinese providing training.

An agriculture pact also was signed, with the two countries joining in studying and developing Moringa spp, a kind of plant popular in Cuba and southwest China noted for its nutrition and medical efforts.

Those deals were signed after Xi's talks with Cuban President Raul Castro, 83, at the Palace of the Revolution on Tuesday. The agreements cover economic and trade, agriculture, biotechnology, culture, education and other fields.

Xi arrived Monday night for his first state visit to Cuba, the last stop of his four-country Latin American trip.

Xi said that the leaders of the two countries would learn from experience in their bilateral relationship and chart the course for its future development.

With both nations now in a critical juncture for development, they face new important opportunities to grow their relations, he said upon arrival.

Raul Castro began instituting market-oriented reforms after taking over from ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2006.

This year, Cuba established its first Chinese-style special development zone and passed a more attractive foreign investment law that encourages investments from emerging markets such as Russia, China and Brazil.

The Chinese leader also paid a visit to retired revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, 88, who led Cuba for five decades. He stepped aside eight years ago because of health problems. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited with the elder statesman on a visit to Cuba 10 days ago.

On Wednesday, Xi will visit Santiago de Cuba, the country's second-largest city.

This is Xi's second visit within three years to Cuba since 2011, a move that shows "the great priority China has placed on its old friend Cuba", said former Chinese ambassador to Cuba Liu Yuqin.

Cuba is the first Latin American and Caribbean country that established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1960.

Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodon, who oversees Latin American affairs, described the China-Cuba relationship as the one that "has withstood the test of the ups and downs of the international situation", and the two countries have become "good friends, good comrades and good brothers".

Xu Yicong, a researcher at the China Foundation for International Studies and former Chinese ambassador to Cuba, said the relationship "has entered the best era of all time" and the trip is "undertaking a mission of drafting the following episodes".

Bilateral trade has witnessed rapid growth in recent years, totaling around $2 billion each year.

Economic cooperation has gained ground between the two nations in fields such as agriculture, biotechnology and renewable energy.

Cuba is China's largest trade partner in the Caribbean region, while China has been the Cuba's second-largest trade partner since 2005.

"Chinese businesses should take such a good opportunity to make full use of the favorable geological conditions of Cuba and the friendly policies toward China in order to expand cooperation," Xu said.

Chinese Ambassador to Cuba Zhang Tuo noted that a growing number of Chinese entrepreneurs have shown great interest in investing in Cuba since new laws on investment and the Special Development Zone (SDZ) at Mariel port were enacted in Cuba earlier this year.

"We have received many inquiries from Chinese firms about how to invest in Cuba," Zhang told China Central Television in an interview.

Xu Shicheng, a senior research fellow on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the new economic zone provides favorable policies, including tariff exemptions, which signals a good chance for Chinese enterprises.

The zone aims to attract foreign investment, boost infrastructure constructions, introduced cutting-edge technologies and improve employment, Xu said.

During his visit to Cuba, Xi will also pay a visit to Santiago, the second-largest city of the country.

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President Xi Jinping meets Fidel Castro as Beijing aims to capitalise on Cuba ties

Xi's visit hailed by former revolutionary leader, who says China and Russia 'are two countries called to lead a new world that will allow the survival of humanity'

President Xi Jinping visited Cuba's former revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in Havana on Tuesday as he aims to expand investment in the fellow communist nation, his last stop on a four-country Latin American charm offensive.

“You are the founder of the causes of Cuban revolution and construction and also of the China-Cuba relationship,” Xi told Castro, according to Xinhua.

Xi recalled meeting Castro in 2011 and said he was pleased to see the 87-year-old former Cuban leader in good health now.

“You are deeply admired by the Cuban people and have also won the respect of the Chinese people. We will never forget the significant contributions you have made to the bilateral relationship,” Xi said.

Castro led Cuba for five decades until failing health prompted him to hand power to his brother eight years ago.

Cuba, the only one-party communist state in the Americas, began opening up its economy in 2008, but has not grown as much as hoped and could desperately use more Chinese investment.

[China and Russia] are two countries called to lead a new world that will allow the survival of humanity
Fidel Castro

Xi for his part has made a point during his tour of reaching out to countries often shunned by US and European investors, including Venezuela and Argentina as well as Cuba.

“This visit will realise the aims of boosting friendship, deepening mutual trust, expanding cooperation and driving development, opening a new phase in the mutually beneficial, friendly cooperation between China and Cuba,” said Xi after touching down on Monday night in Havana.

The opening of the Cuban economy – which some analysts see as an effort to follow in the footsteps of the booming Asian giant – has created new opportunities to tighten bilateral ties, said Xi.

Raul Castro and Xi review an honour guard at Havana's Revolution Palace. Photo: Reuters

“Cuba is already fully promoting the updating of its economic model, which means new and important development opportunities for Chinese-Cuban ties,” he said.

China is already the Caribbean island’s second-largest trading partner after Venezuela and its primary source of credit, filling the gap left by the US economic embargo on Cuba and its long-time exclusion from institutions such as the World Bank.

Coinciding with Xi’s trip, about 50 Chinese entrepreneurs travelled to Havana to explore business opportunities, attracted by foreign investment incentives and the future Mariel free trade zone outside the capital.

“We want Chinese businessmen to invest in Cuba and partner with Cuban companies,” said Cuba’s director general for foreign investment, Deborah Rivas.

Xi also met President Raul Castro, 83, at the Palace of the Revolution, for the signing of a range of bilateral deals.

The second day of his visit will take him to Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city, hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The storm killed 11 people, destroyed 17,000 homes and damaged thousands more. Xi is expected to announce Chinese cooperation in the city, perhaps in rebuilding housing.

Raul Castro talks to Xi during a ceremony at Havana's Revolution Palace. Photo: Reuters

Xi’s visit to Fidel Castro echoes one by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who kicked off his own Latin America tour in Cuba 10 days ago by meeting with the former revolutionary.

The ageing father of the Cuban Revolution called the visits “historic” in an article in official newspaper Granma.

China and Russia “are two countries called to lead a new world that will allow the survival of humanity,” he said.

The Chinese and Russian leaders’ tours have underlined their growing ties with a region often considered the United States’ back yard, and bookended a summit of the BRICS group of emerging powers where calls for less US and European dominance of international affairs took centre stage.

The group – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – launched a new US$50 billon development bank and US$100-billion reserve fund designed to provide an alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The Cuban president hailed the move as contributing to “a new international order.”

Xi kicked off his tour last week in Brazil by proposing a new US$20-billion infrastructure fund for Latin America, underlining the fast-growing Asian giant’s increasing interest in the resource-rich region.

He has also visited Argentina and Venezuela, offering cash-strapped Buenos Aires an US$11-billion currency swap and signing a raft of oil and mineral deals with Caracas.

Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years, reaching US$261.6 billion last year. China is now the second-largest trading partner of many countries, including Argentina and Cuba, and has been Brazil’s largest since 2009.

That is a dramatic change from 1990, when China ranked just 17th on the list of Latin American export destinations.

This is Xi’s second visit to Latin America since taking office last year. Last year he toured Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago.

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China's Xi Jinping arrives in Cuba

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Cuba late Monday, officials said, the last stop on a Latin American tour that has stressed trade and aid more than ideology.

“Inside Jose Martí International airport, Xi was welcomed by first Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel and diplomats from the Chinese mission here,” Cuba’s state news agency Prensa Latina reported.

Xi arrived from Caracas for a two-day official visit to the Americas’ only one-party communist nation.

The Chinese leader is looking to bolster trade and cooperation with Cuba. Beijing already is Cuba’s No. 2 trade partner after Venezuela, and its top source of credit.

Xi — who has visited Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela on this trip — has a meeting scheduled with President Raúl Castro, 83, at the Palace of the Revolution on Tuesday. The two leaders are expected to sign bilateral agreements but there has been no advance word on their focus.

On Wednesday, Xi will visit Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city which was hard hit in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy. The storm killed 11 people and destroyed 17,000 homes and damaged thousands more. Many believe Xi will announce Chinese cooperation in the city, perhaps in rebuilding housing.

The Chinese leader also could pay a visit to retired revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, 87, who led Cuba for five decades. He stepped aside eight years ago during a health crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited with the elder statesman on a visit to Cuba 10 days ago.

Oil deals in Caracas

Earlier in Caracas Xi signed a raft of oil and mineral deals with Venezuela. On the trip, he has reached out to resource-rich countries such as Venezuela and Argentina at a time when they are often shunned by the United States and Europe.

The deals spanned a range of sectors from oil to infrastructure and included $4 billion for a joint development fund, $691 million to explore Venezuela’s gold and copper reserves and an agreement to develop the countries’ third joint satellite.

“Venezuela has become one of the top countries for Chinese investment, … our seventh oil supplier and fourth Latin American trade partner,” Xi said in Caracas.

The Venezuela visit comes after the Chinese leader agreed to an $11-billion currency swap with Argentina and extended much-needed investment to President Cristina Kirchner, whose cash-strapped government, locked out of capital markets since defaulting on its debt in 2001, is staring down the threat of another default.

Xi kicked off his tour last week by proposing a new $20-billion infrastructure fund for Latin America, underlining the fast-growing Asian giant’s increasing interest in the region.

He also launched a new $50-billon development bank along with the other emerging powers of the so-called BRICS group — Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa — at a summit in Brazil.

The move, which creates an alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank, was hailed as contributing to “a new international order” by Cuban President Raúl Castro — Xi’s host at the next and final stop on his tour.

‘Not about ideology’

But although Xi has spent his trip rubbing elbows with leftist leaders who tend to view the United States with a critical eye, his tour is less about ideology than business, said Venezuelan political analyst Carlos Romero.

“China’s political and economic expansion is pragmatic in character. It’s not about ideology or competition with the United States, but a Chinese policy of looking long-term for natural resources in different parts of the world,” he told AFP.

“China knows Argentina and Venezuela hold huge natural resource deposits, particularly two they are desperately searching for to fuel an economy and a society like China’s: oil and food in the case of Argentina, and oil and gas in the case of Venezuela.”

The partnership comes at a welcome time for Venezuela, which is in the midst of an inflation crisis and struggling under a pile of unpaid debts to foreign firms.

China, the second-largest market for Venezuelan oil after the United States, pays for its average 640,000 daily barrels in part by writing down the $17-billion debt Caracas owes it.

Both countries have said they want to increase oil exports to one million barrels a day in the coming years.

Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years, reaching $261.6 billion in 2013. China is now the second-largest trading partner of many countries, including Argentina and Cuba, and has been Brazil’s largest since 2009.

In 1990, China ranked just 17th on the list of Latin American export destinations.

Beijing has also ramped up investment in Latin America to about 20 percent of its total foreign direct investment of $90 billion last year.

This is Xi’s second visit to Latin America and the Caribbean since taking office in 2013. Last year he toured Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago.

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China, Cuba to further advance ties

To many Chinese, Cuba is a country that is far geographically yet close at heart. The two countries established diplomatic relations in September 1960 to help each other's causes.

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Cuban President Raul Castro Arrived in Brazil

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, arrived in the afternoon of Wednesday, July 16 at Brasilia, Brazil, heading a presidential delegation to attend the meeting of Latin American and Caribbean leaders and China, to be held on the 17th of that month in that city.

Besides the members of CELAC (Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador and Antigua and Barbuda), are expected the presence of the presidents of the member countries of UNASUR and Mexico.

Members of the Cuban delegation, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Investment Rodrigo Malmierca.

Minrex Vice Minister Abelardo Moreno Fernández , and the Ambassador of Cuba in Brazil, Marielena Ruiz Capote.

Translated by: Aliuska Cadalso

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