China’s Xi pledges support to Cuba in ‘core interests’

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Cuban counterpart pledged mutual support over the “core interests” of their communist compatriots at a meeting on Friday and hailed Beijing’s return to diplomacy face-to-face.

In a statement to Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez, Xi said China hopes to strengthen “coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs” with Cuba. The two will “walk the path of building socialism, each with their own characteristics, hand in hand,” Xi was quoted as saying in a Chinese government press release.

China generally defines core interests as defending its economic and political development goals, along with control over the territory it claims, particularly self-governing Taiwan.

The Chinese government’s press release did not mention any specific issues or other countries.

Diaz-Canel’s visit is another sign of China trying to get its personal diplomacy back on track after those exchanges have all but halted during the pandemic.

Xi, who is also the leader of the ruling Communist Party and has scrapped term limits so he can remain in power indefinitely, met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing earlier this month and then attended the Group of 20 China’s top 20 economies meeting part Indonesia and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Thailand.

Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh and European Council President Charles Michel will travel to Beijing next week.

Diaz-Canel arrived in China after a visit to Moscow, where he and Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the “traditional friendship” between their sanctions-hit nations.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba grew closer, as did China and Russia gradually forge warmer ties, largely in contrast to the US-led liberal democratic world order.

The Chinese press release quoted Diaz-Canel as saying his visit “shows that we attach great importance and attention to the friendly and cooperative relationship between Cuba and China.”

Cuba “highly recognizes” Xi’s practical and theoretical contributions “and we believe this is a real encouragement to all progressive forces in the world,” he said.

China is Cuba’s second largest trading partner after major oil producer Colombia, and has provided buses, locomotives and other equipment to the island’s efforts to modernize its decrepit infrastructure. Chinese companies have also invested in mineral exploration in Cuba, but on a limited scale.