Beijing (AsiaNews) - Cuban president Raul Castro yesterday met his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, receiving aid for the sluggish Cuban economy. It is the first visit by Castro to China, after taking the reins of the nation from the hands of his brother Fidel in 2008.
Today Raul met Premier Wen Jiabao, together with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, considered prospective successors to Hu and Wen.
Raul has been signing various trade agreements to support the development of technology and the health service. Hu also promised to open a line of credit at zero interest to support the development of agriculture, but the amount of credit has not been made public.
Reported in length by the state agency Xinhua, there was no mention of the economic difficulties that the Caribbean island is enduring as a result of the United States embargo. According to these dispatches, talks with Hu Jintao and Wu Bangguo, president of the Chinese parliament, emphasized the decades-long friendship between the two countries, the desire to strengthen economic and cultural exchanges, media, education. Hu also called for more cooperation in trade, energy, biotechnology and agriculture.
For some time Cuba is trying to learn from China how to reconcile Communist ideology and success in the marketplace and how to allow private investment in its planned economy. At the same time - as was the case under Fidel Castro - Cuba is seeking support and aid for its people to live, sorely tried by the embargo, but also a clumsy ideological control.
The exchanges between China and Cuba have grown from 590 million U.S. dollars in 2004 to 1.8 billion in 2010, making China the biggest trading partner after Venezuela. According to analysts, the new Chinese investment programs will increase the presence of Beijing in the American market.
Although ideologically more marked, the Caribbean country is making important steps to open to religious freedom and democracy. In March last year, Raul Castro welcomed Pope Benedict XVI. In his speech the pope stressed the value of religious freedom, the Church's commitment to education, the contribution to social dialogue and the importance of dropping "immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints that render understanding harder and collaborative effort ineffective".
As a result, the Church in Cuba is enjoying more and more freedom, and many political prisoners have been freed.