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Cuba and China in the dynamics of a multi-sector alliance

Beijing (Prensa Latina) China and Cuba have reinvigorated their economic-commercial relations, strengthened mutual political trust with high-level meetings and signed several agreements during a fruitful year for their ties.

By Isaura Diez Millan, Prensa Latina Chief Correspondent in China

In 2023, Presidents Miguel Díaz-Canel (Cuba) and Xi Jinping (China) met in the context of the 15th BRICS Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and ratified the excellent state of bilateral ties.

That meeting took place less than a year after Diaz-Canel’s visit to China, during which both leaders achieved major consensus on bilateral cooperation in a new era. Recently, the Cuban head of State noted the continuity and significance of the high-level talks with China, when receiving in Havana the member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Shi Taifeng.

Almost in unison, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero met in Beijing with President Xi about traditional friendship and the mutual willingness to expand bilateral collaboration.

In addition to underlining the brotherhood with Cuba, Xi emphasized that Marrero was the only Latin American head of Government to be invited to the 6th China International Import Exhibition (CIIE).

At another time, President Xi congratulated Cuba for holding the Group of 77 and China Summit, and praised Cuba’s contributions to boosting cooperation and solidarity with developing nations.

The Cuban leader, in turn, said that participation in the CIIE, at which 18 Cuban companies were represented, was a success, because it contributed to exchanging and signing specific agreements for the benefit of both peoples.

When assessing his stay in China, Marrero commented on the affection with which Xi referred to the two countries as “good friends, good companions and good brothers.”

According to the prime minister, in those talks, the head of State emphasized China’s invariable support for Cuba’s sovereignty and against the United States blockade.

The agreements covered several sectors of bilateral cooperation such as transportation, biotechnology, agri-food and digital television.

Shortly before Marrero’s arrival in Beijing, Cuban Deputy Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas co-chaired the 30th Session of the Intergovernmental Commission, which allowed signing agreements in such fields as renewable energy sources, food production, tourism, info-communications, the sugar industry and trade, among others.

The agenda of Cabrisas, who is also the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, included tours of places of economic interest like Biotech Pharmaceuticals Limited and the headquarters of the JD.com e-commerce platform.

MULTI-SECTOR COOPERATION

Cuba and China celebrated 63 years of diplomatic ties in September, although the historic ties date back to the 19th century, when the first Chinese citizens arrived in Cuba.

Cuban Ambassador to China Alberto Blanco stressed that the friendship between the two peoples does not depend on temporary circumstances, and underlined the long-term vision of the historic leaders Fidel Castro and Mao Zedong. The special representative of the Chinese Government for Latin American Affairs, Qiu Xiaoqi, emphasized that both nations share strategic visions on international relations, high mutual political trust and similar objectives.

He stressed that they promote the interests of developing countries, work together on the Belt and Road Initiative and maintain collaboration in various areas.

In fact, biotechnology was reaffirmed as the star of bilateral collaboration this year, when new agreements were signed and notable achievements were made in the fields of medicines, vaccines and other relevant products in the sector.

In an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, the director of the Sino-Cuban joint venture Biotech Pharma (BPL), Bai Xianhong, praised the importance of this cooperation and noted the contribution of Cuban scientists in terms of the development, research and administration of Nimotuzumab.

At the time, President Xi Jinping lauded the work of Cuban neuroscientist Pedro A. Valdés Sosa, director of the Joint Neurotechnology Laboratory in the city of Chengdu, in southern Sichuan province.

“I sincerely hope that cooperation between China and Cuba in various areas, including technology, continues to deepen in this new era for the benefit of our respective peoples,” the president wrote.

Valdés Sosa, in turn, shared his team’s achievements in the field of brain scientific research and collaboration in neuroscientific technology with the Chinese president.

In a letter to Xi, he expressed his willingness to contribute to strengthening bilateral friendship and the broader deployment of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Also in 2023, both countries inaugurated the International Research Institute on Artificial Intelligence in Hebei, in the north, to promote social development through innovation and knowledge in this field in which China is a world leader.

Cuban Higher Education Minister Walter Baluja, present at that inauguration, told Prensa Latina that the two nations seek greater cooperation in the academic and scientific areas.

“The idea is to offer solutions from science, technology and information, which are generated in the academia, to the problems of our countries, thus supporting their development and well-being,” he added.

Baluja was part of the Cuban delegation, led by Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano, to the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October.

Regarding higher education, University of Havana Rector Miriam Nicado highlighted the signing of new cooperation agreements with Chinese counterparts during her visit to China.

In addition to meeting with authorities and academics from the sector, Nicado penned agreements with the University of Communications and the University of Minzu to hold talks between experts and the possible development of joint projects.

“We have the projection of creating joint centers and schools to teach common courses here with ours, with faculties from our universities,” she told Prensa Latina.

TOURISM, TRADE AND CULTURE

On the other hand, Cuba’s promotion as a safe and natural destination has captured the interest of Chinese travelers, as the year advanced, particularly since the presentation of the Cuba Unica (Single Cuba) campaign.

Cuba participated in the most important professional tourism exhibition in China, which brought together some 5,000 commercial buyers this year.

In addition, Cuba focused on promoting its security characteristics and connection with nature, aspects of great interest to Chinese holidaymakers, who prefer safe destinations with easy access in terms of visa, official sources told Prensa Latina.

Cuba was included in the first group of nations that Chinese citizens could visit after the Covid-19 pandemic, while the promotional video of the Cuba Unica campaign won the first place in the international awards of the 10th Asia Microcinema and Art Festival, held in the southern province of Yunnan.

Other notable results of bilateral cooperation were the expansion of the range of products that are reaching Chinese consumers through JD.com’s Excelencias Cuba pavilion.

According to the Cuban ambassador, since its launch in April 2022, sales of Cuban goods have been stable and increasing in China.

Currently, Chinese citizens can purchase various brands of rum, coffee, fruit paste, honey, cosmetics, natural products and clothing, such as guayaberas, through this means of cross-border e-commerce.

In another turn of events, Cuba won the first place in the Americas this year in the Puente Chino (Chinese Bridge) contest and was fifth in the world among 138 competitors.

The young Cuban student Alberto Blanco was awarded the honorary title of ambassador of the Chinese language here and the best result in this contest since the first edition in 2002.

Furthermore, in 2023, collaboration in the media agenda and news production between the two countries was consolidated with the signing of cooperation agreements between Prensa Latina news agency and major Chinese newspapers.

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