Cuba has enjoyed a significant trade relationship with China since the 1990s, though their relationship is a historical one as well. When Cuba declared its independence from the United States in 1902, China’s Qing dynasty quickly recognized Cuba as a sovereign state after its secession in the wake of the Spanish-American war.
Although Cuba and China were not aligned during the Cold War due to Cuba’s alliance with Russia, relations improved after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the point where in 2014, bilateral trade between the two nations equaled about $1.6 billion. Chinese goods in the transportation and energy have contributed to the revitalization of those industries in Cuba. Now, after Irma, China has doubled down in its support of the island nation.
Chinese and Cuban diplomats met in New York this year on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi extended condolences to Cuba over the recent damage it has suffered from Hurricane Irma. He also expressed his confidence in the nation’s ability to recover under the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party.
Wang Yi also talked generally about the relationship between the two countries, and proposed that they should enhance communication, intensify coordination, and deepen their strategic partnership. He added that China will always support Cuba’s sovereignty and its “righteous struggle against the US embargo.”
China has other goals in mind as well. With the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States being held next year, China is looking to Cuba to play a positive role in the meeting by advancing unity in the area to promote bilateral coordination between the two regions.
With China’s $20 billion bailout of Venezuela back in 2015, and with China’s significant investment in the Cuban oil industry, one can only expect the relationship between China and Latin America to continue to develop in the future, especially if those countries can step up to lead their fellow Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla thanked China in turn for its condolences and timely assistance after Hurricane Irma and both parties reaffirmed their commitment to one another as strategic and humanitarian allies. Recalling the medical aid provided by Cuba after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, China sent 86 tons of relief materials to Cuba last Friday, with three more similar shipments on the way and a commitment to send regular shipments of food to Cuba over the next year.
Cuba’s deputy minister of foreign trade and investment, Antonio Carricarte, expressed appreciation to China, saying that the two nations are “brother countries” with “ties of friendship, solidarity, and respect.”
The tone towards China after the United Nations General Assembly is in stark contrast to the tone towards the United States. After US President Donald Trump’s addressed the GA, calling Cuba “corrupt and destabilizing,” he said he would not lift the US trade embargo on Cuba until it made “fundamental reforms.”
The Foreign Ministry responded, “In the wake of the disrespectful, unacceptable and meddling statements made by President Donald Trump in his address to the UN General Assembly at a time when the US-Cuba Bilateral Commission was sitting in session, the Cuban delegation voiced a strong protest.”
US-Cuban relations have certainly taken a few steps back this year, as the mysterious “sonic attacks” on US diplomats in Cuba are still being investigated.