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Xi Jinping hails friendship with Castro

Publication Date : 24-07-2014


Giving Fidel Castro a bronze bust of the Cuban leader as a young man, President Xi Jinping wished the revolutionary leader a happy birthday and said he felt glad to see him in good health.

Calling Castro an old friend and respected leader, Xi spoke highly of his contribution to China-Cuba ties as the two leaders met on Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, the last stop on Xi's four-nation Latin American trip.

"You are the founder of the Cuban revolution and also of the China-Cuba relationship," Xi said.

Castro, who turns 88 on August 13 and seldom makes public appearances anymore, gave Xi a tour of his farm.

Castro pointed out the moringa and mulberries - past gifts from China. Castro said growing moringa and mulberries can help produce animal feed in Cuba.

Xi said he brought more seeds of both as presents for Castro to honor the friendship the two countries have formed.

It was Xi's first visit to Cuba as president. He visited the country and met with Castro in 2011 when he was vice-president.

Welcoming the reunion with Xi, Castro said he values his past contacts with Chinese leaders and has high expectations for Cuba-China relations with the continuing efforts of leaders from both countries.

Referring to the just-concluded sixth BRICS summit in Brazil, which Xi participated in, Castro said China had a vital role to play as an emerging economy, and as the world's No 2 economy it has an important impact on the peaceful development of the world.

Bilateral ties got a boost on Tuesday with 29 agreements signed during Xi's visit.

Among the deals, China's Bank of Import and Export offered Cuba a 730 million yuan ($115 million) loan for Santiago Port, Cuba's second-largest port.

Under another deal, China Minmentals Corp will spend $600 million buying Cuban nickel ore.

Those deals were signed after Xi's talks with Cuban President Raul Castro, 83, at the Palace of the Revolution.

Raul Castro began instituting market-oriented reforms after taking over from his ailing brother in 2006.

China is Cuba's second-largest trading partner after Venezuela. Two-way trade grew 7.9 percent to $1.88 billion last year.

"Cuba is a long-time political friend of China's due to their common bond as states governed by their respective Communist Parties," said Jon Taylor, a professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

"The trip may also underscore Raul Castro's recent claim that he is a follower of the Chinese model of development," Taylor said. "If that is so, Xi's visit may enhance a potential Cuban move toward introducing and implementing key economic reforms similar to reform and opening-up in China since 1978."


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