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China-Cuba ties spearhead China-Latin America relations: ambassador

Updated: Sep 24,2016 9:42 AM     Xinhua

HAVANA — China-Cuba ties spearhead China-Latin America relations and were made a model of solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, Chinese Ambassador to Cuba Zhang Tuo told Xinhua recently prior to Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Cuba.

At the invitation of President of the Cuban Council of State and Council of Ministers Raul Castro Ruz, Premier Li, accompanied by his wife Cheng Hong, will begin an official visit to the Caribbean island country on Sept 24.

This is the first official visit by a Chinese premier to Cuba since the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949.

In the interview, Zhang said that China and Cuba have learnt from each other on the path of building socialism with their respective characteristics, have exchanged experience in governance in an increasingly in-depth way, have supported each other on issues concerning their core interests, and have formed an intimate relationship as “good friends, good comrades and good brothers.”

Chinese and Cuban leaders have maintained frequent exchanges and established profound friendship, Zhang noted, saying both Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and the current leader Raul Castro Ruz visited China many times and are old friends of the Chinese people.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean country is one of Latin American countries most frequently visited by Chinese Communist Party and government leaders. In particular, during a visit to Cuba by President Xi Jinping in July 2014, Xi and Raul Castro Ruz exchanged opinions on bilateral relations, governance and other subjects in an in-depth way, jointly drawing a blueprint for future development of relations between the two countries, Zhang said.

The high-level political relations are gradually turned into fruits of multilevel and multi-field trade and economic cooperation, the ambassador said.

For consecutive years, China has been Cuba’s second largest trading partner and an important economic cooperation partner, while Cuba is China’s largest trading partner in the Caribbean region.

In recent years, China has made new breakthrough in fields like investment and project contracting in Cuba, and has extended cooperation projects into such fields as port reconstruction, tourism development, industrial infrastructure construction, etc. in an orderly way, Zhang said.

With Cuba actively integrating itself into the international community and vigorously promoting the process of updating its economic growth mode, the two countries are expected to launch greater bilateral cooperation focused on such fields like infrastructure, agriculture, renewable energy, biotechnology and others, Zhang said.

Tourism is expected to become a new highlight in future cooperation, Zhang said, adding that Chinese people have always been fascinated by Cuba’s unique customs and culture. Direct flights from Beijing to Havana, officially launched last year, have become the first direct flights operated by Chinese air companies to the Caribbean region, significantly facilitating personnel exchanges, he said.

Moreover, people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have been in the interest of both peoples, and educational cooperation has been on the rise, said the ambassador, who has worked in Cuba for more than four years.

In recent years, thousands of Chinese students have received scholarships from the Cuban government and have studied there the Spanish language, medicine, tourism, education and so on, according to Zhang. Meanwhile, the number of overseas Chinese students in Cuba at their own expense has also increased.

Cuba has become an important base for Spanish-language human resources training for China, while more and more Cuban people are becoming interested in learning the Chinese language, he said.

Zhang concluded that both China and Cuba hope to enhance their friendship and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in the interest of both peoples as a result of Premier Li’s visit to Cuba.