Chinese Prez Hu Jintao on 2nd Cuban visit
Despite the US embargo, Cuba continues to regain its own place in international relations. No wonder, Russia, Brazil and the European Union have decided to restore or improve their bilateral relations with the island. Now, it is the turn for China which is "Cuba's biggest trading partner after Venezuela, with bilateral trade at $2.3bn (£1.5bn) in 2007."
President Hu Jintao of China has arrived in Cuba - his second visit since 2004 - aiming to promote economic ties with the Caribbean island. He was warmly greeted at Havana's airport by a dragon dance and members of the local Cuban Chinese community. China is now Cuba's biggest trading partner after Venezuela, with bilateral trade at $2.3bn (£1.5bn) in 2007. China has seen its trade with Latin American nations climb from $13bn in 2000 to more than $100bn in 2007. "My visit is aimed at increasing friendship and co-operation between our two nations, and working together with our Cuban comrades to build a promising future," Mr Hu said in a statement. Mr Hu had arrived in Cuba from Costa Rica, which last year switched diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China. Costa Rican officials said at the time that the move was designed to attract Chinese investment. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and refuses to have diplomatic ties with nations that recognise it. Correspondents say Mr Hu's two-day visit to Cuba is also aimed at boosting economic ties, and securing trade access to raw materials. Although both countries are run by Communist parties, they have pursued very different economic models. China has adopted market economics while Cuba still has a command system with most of the economy under state control. When Mr Hu last visited Cuba in 2004 Fidel Castro was still in charge of the country. His younger brother, Raul Castro, officially took over the presidency in February 2008 and has introduced some reforms. Raul Castro saw China as a potential model for Cuba to follow, says BBC regional analyst Emilio San Pedro. China, a modern-day economic powerhouse in a world of financial uncertainty, sees Cuba with its need for investment and political support as an important ally in its long-range plans to strengthen and expand its ties with the rest of Latin America, he adds. The Chinese president will travel on from Cuba to Peru where he will attend the Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) summit in Lima on 21 and 22 November.
The two countries will sign documents of cooperation in economic and education sectors, according to Chinese diplomats. China and Cuba set up diplomatic ties in 1960. In recent years, the two countries have maintained frequent high-level visits, deepened mutual trust and expanded trade and economic cooperation.
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