Relations between Cuba and the People’s Republic of China: prospects for 2018

Este artículo forma parte del dossier: 

More than 170 years after the arrival of the first Chinese in Cuba and on the occasion of the 57th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the governments of the two countries describe their bilateral links as strategic and “currently at their peak”.

The top leaders from both Cuba and China have categorically expressed their political will to develop bilateral relations, which has fostered the sustained strengthening and comprehensiveness of Sino-Cuban ties despite an international environment marked by difficulties and uncertainty. Even if it is extremely hard to mention a field where the said relations are not manifest, they are particularly evident at the level of party and parliamentary activity, foreign affairs, trade, and financial, military, scientific and cultural cooperation, among other spheres.

These links are fully mature and built on mutual trust. Both nations boast an ever-growing political dialogue based on clear consensus regarding the topics discussed in regular meetings, the free-flowing exchange of reciprocal visits by high-level officials, and their concertation in international forums are becoming more and more systematic, whereas the scope of Sino-Cuban cooperation keeps increasing.

When it comes to issues of the utmost importance to the two nations, each has fully supported the other. Cuba has steadily endorsed the One China Principle and Taiwan’s status as an inalienable part of mainland China. The People’s Republic, in turn, remains steadfast in its censure of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

Both countries develop a systematic exchange of experiences about the construction of socialism in matters of great relevance to each of them, including party work, qualification of cadre, the fight on corruption, state enterprise reform, etc.

Cuba and China concur entirely with subjects as momentous as the struggle against hegemony and unilateralism. They also oppose the use of force and the violation of international law, demand greater participation of all countries in economic development and international political activity, and give top priority to sustainable development, to mention just a few examples.

From the economic viewpoint, even if they are very far from entirely exploiting their existing potential and reaching the level of political relations, Cuba and China have strengthened their bonds. Their bilateral trade is on the rise, totaling US$2.5 billion in 2015 and 2016, although this year it will fall short of the US$2 billion mark because of the difficulties met by the Cuban economy. China ranks today among the island’s three largest trading partners, at the same time as Cuba has become one major destination of Chinese exports to the Caribbean region.

Chinese goods meet the needs of almost every Cuban sector. Some of the main items on this list are machinery and equipment, metals, parts and components, vehicles, footwear, clothing, and raw materials, albeit Cuban exports are limited to a narrower range of products, namely nickel, sugar, rum, tobacco, coffee, medicines, and a number of health care services. In the specific case of nickel, China has been one of our main customers for the last 15 years, a highly significant fact concerning the demand of Chinese raw materials and Cuba’s own income. The island’s trade deficit has fluctuated around US$1 billion, especially as a result of the fall in the prices of sugar and nickel.

Much remains to be done as well to realize the potential for investment between Cuba and China. The People’s Republic has invested in golf courses, restaurants, and a joint venture for rice production, whereas Cuba has done it in a Shanghai-based hotel and in two biotechnological factories. In other words, so far, the level of investment in the two countries has been hardly significant.

From the financial viewpoint, China is highly important to Cuba given the restrictions imposed by the U.S. economic and financial blockade on the island. China sets no political conditions to make convenient short-, medium- and long-term loans that contribute to Cuba’s financial assets.

Chinese cooperation has been pivotal to Cuba’s economic and social dynamics, as evidenced by various programs of great importance to the island, such as those related to agriculture, aquaculture, water resources, customs, the food industry, and capacity building through bilateral and multilateral training courses.

However, Chinese cooperation in several other areas must be underscored because of its role in improving our productive capacity and people’s living conditions. Cuba’s progress in the field of telecommunications is particularly noticeable. No less praiseworthy are the outstanding achievements of construction work, which include a cement factory and the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. Furthermore, China’s valuable cooperation has resulted in Havana bay’s floating dock and the provision of railroad cars and buses for the Cuban transportation system. And we cannot fail to mention the accomplishments made possible by this cooperation in areas like renewable energy production and the use of leading-edge technology, as in the case of laptop computer and television equipment assembly. Finally, China has notably cooperated with Cuba’s recovery from weather disasters like Hurricane Irma.

The year 2018 will bring demanding challenges and opportunities to Cuba and China, both individually and in their bilateral relations. In light of the specific actions undertaken by the U.S. Administration to further reinforce the blockade on the island and of the explicit rivalry toward the People’s Republic declared in recent U.S. strategic security documents, both nations will have to deal with a harsh contentious policy undoubtedly bound to affect our bilateral relations one way or another.

The measures to strengthen the economic blockade will remain a huge obstacle likely to put Cuba’s economy on a downward trend and hinder investment promotion in the island in ways also sure to somehow affect Chinese enterprises.

Nonetheless, the U.S. anti-globalization, protectionist and restrictive policies make room for China’s presence, which will foster Sino-Cuban cooperation and bilateral relations.

Both countries are engrossed in their economic development, the improvement of their people’s living conditions and the search for sustainable development as they advocate the creation of a multipolar world. Cuba’s and China’s political will, together with their economic complementarity, will keep bolstering their links and cooperation.

Cuban and Chinese leaders alike are completely willing to strengthen their bilateral relationship in the political, economic and commercial fields to their mutual benefit. To that end, Cuba will continue working hard to make its economy regain international credibility and advance the process to update its economic model, which will favor stronger ties with China.

Cuba will keep striving to attract corporate China’s investment, make the most of the financial and technological capabilities of the island’s main economic sectors, and increase cooperation with a view to infrastructure development.

Cuba’s efforts and China’s intentions to diversify Cuban export items are patently obvious at the same time as they encourage two-way investment. Likewise, the island is interested in the financial assistance that the Chinese government has made available to Latin America and the Caribbean in order to boost productivity and investment in the region.

The Sino-Cuban intergovernmental commission is expected to set its sights on the fulfillment of the systematic trade, financial and cooperation agreements reached by both countries. Cuba will keep promoting Chinese engagement in our economic development, while China will continue to reinforce its bilateral relations with the island insofar as they comply with the win-win principle.

 

(Translator: Jesús Bran)

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