CARACAS — Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit to Cuba represents the ongoing efforts both China and the island nation make to grow closer over the years, according to one analyst.
Premier Li’s trip to Havana marks the first official visit to Cuba by a Chinese premier since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1960, making it a truly unique chance to boost bilateral cooperation.
Premier Li’s visit follows his participation in the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and an official visit to Canada.
“This is a historic milestone which crowns a process of improvement and expansion of relations of all types between Cuba and China, not only commercially but politically as well,” said the former Director of International Relations for the Venezuelan presidency Sergio Rodriguez Gelfenstein in an interview with Xinhua.
China is now Cuba’s second-largest trading partner and is vital to the island’s growth, said Gelfenstein.
Commercial exchanges between the two countries have grown consistently, with bilateral trade reaching some $2.2 billion in 2015 and further expanding in 2016.
Both countries have also adhered to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for bilateral economic relations — an MoU signed in 2011 — over the last five years, Gelfenstein said.
The MoU has witnessed important advances in areas such as science and technology, tourism, judicial cooperation, culture and sports.
Beijing and Havana enjoy a political closeness which will not be affected by the process of Havana’s rapprochement with Washington, Gelfenstein said.
The evolving ties between Beijing and Havana have been a part of China’s wish to show its willingness to cooperate with Latin America and the Caribbean in general, he added.
“Latin America has for the first time the possibility of negotiating and creating cooperation mechanisms with a global power like China, which does not impose a preconceived agenda on the region,” he said.
China’s wish to maintain international ties with all countries in the region, regardless of their current national circumstances, is the pillar of its foreign policy, he said.