HAVANA — Premier Li Keqiang on Sept 26 wound up a successful visit to Cuba, the first official visit by a Chinese premier, with the two countries signing more than 20 cooperation agreements covering a wide range of areas.
Many experts said the trip has helped boost economic cooperation between Havana and Beijing and promote the Cuba-China comprehensive strategic partnership, while turning a new page of relations between the two traditionally friendly nations after they established diplomatic ties 56 years ago.
Premier Li also visited Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro here on Sept 25 and the two exchanged views on bilateral ties, world peace, regional hot issues, food security and a wide range of other issues of common concern.
The following is a summary of the achievements the two sides has scored so far during the visit and analysts’ expectations from the trip.
The Premier has pledged to further promote bilateral ties through enhancing high-level exchange of visits and boosting economic cooperation.
The pledge came as Premier Li held talks with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana on Sept 24.
Hailing the progress made in the past 56 years since the two countries set up diplomatic ties, Premier Li said China has firmly adhered to the policy of China-Cuba friendship, supported Cuba in following a socialist path and promoted bilateral pragmatic cooperation.
China stands ready to further enhance high-level exchange of visits, deepen economic cooperation and step up coordination on international affairs with Cuba so as to push forward bilateral ties, said Premier Li.
Raul Castro, for his part, spoke highly of the historic significance of Premier Li’s visit, saying Cuba agrees with China on measures to develop bilateral ties and is willing to learn from China’s development experience.
Cuba looks forward to increasing high-level exchanges with China, and expanding down-to-earth cooperation with China in trade and education, Castro added.
After the talks, the two leaders witnessed the signing of some 20 cooperative agreements in areas including economic technology, finance, production capacity, telecommunications, environment protection, and inspection and quarantine.
Expectations of experts
In many experts’ eyes, the visit represents the continuous efforts both China and the island nation have been making to promote bilateral ties over the years.
“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 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.
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.
Mexican expert Ulises Granados told Xinhua in an interview that Premier Li’s visit to Cuba can help strengthen bilateral ties.
Granados, coordinator of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Mexico Technological Autonomous Institute (ITAM), said that the two countries still have more room for cooperation in the sectors of services, medicine, agriculture, infrastructure, biotechnology, renewable energy and special economic zones.
“The visit by the Chinese premier will allow both nations to sign cooperation agreements in these areas,” said the expert.
Beyond trade, Premier Li’s visit can help Cuba learn from Beijing’s economic reforms in recent decades, while China can learn from Cuba’s advanced healthcare system, Granados said.
“Cuba’s reform process must be a priority in order to improve the lives of its people, for which studying China’s reforms would be useful,” he said.
“The mechanisms to open and operate special economic zones could be particularly useful to the Cuban side,” Granados added.
Warm welcome from Cubans
Cubans from all walks of life paid close attention to Premier Li Keqiang’s visit and highly value the island country’s relations with China, expecting bilateral relations would be enhanced through high-level exchanges of visits and economic cooperation.
State media have highlighted Premier Li’s visit to Havana with photos and reports. Besides major news outlets on the island, people in the street have a lot to say about the visit.
Silvio Alvarez, a 73-year-old Havana resident, told Xinhua, “relations between Cuba and China are very good, in recent years economic cooperation has increased substantially. The collaboration with China is important to many sectors of the country such as transport, trade and industries.”
“It’s the first time a Chinese premier visits Cuba and I believe it is a trip of great connotation. Both countries should continue working on areas that positively impact the Cuban economy and we are on a good path to deepen our relations,” said Carmen Mejias, a retired teacher.
For Cubans it is very important to continue strengthening ties with China, a longtime friend that shares many political and social views with Cuba.
“Cuba’s relations with China have been very stable for many years. Today China is Cuba’s second-largest trading partner and the visit of the Chinese premier will deepen bilateral ties. I think this visit will be very important for Cuba because it will reaffirm economic, political and social links with Beijing,” said Mario Hernandez, a 58-year-old worker.
“There have been many contributions from China in the last few years and it’s a reliable trading partner. Our lives are better today because we have access to Chinese-made equipment and technology, thanks to the active cooperation between both countries,” said Roberto Souto, a Havana resident.
Miriam Legon, a Cuban state worker, also referred to the increasingly close ties with the Asian nation.
“There isn’t a Cuban who does not experience firsthand the impact of this relationship. In my house we cook food with a Chinese induction cooker and watch TV with better quality thanks to a digital signal decoder built by a Chinese company,” she said.