Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, July 22, 2014.[Photo/Xinhua]
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, the last stop on his four-nation Latin American trip.
At Castro's residence in Havana, the two exchanged views on bilateral ties, the international situation and other issues of common concern.
Xi extended good wishes to Castro on his upcoming 88th birthday, while Castro sent his regards to the Chinese people.
Xi said he has high regards for Castro, the former Cuban leader who has long worked for promoting China-Cuba relations.
Xi said Castro is the founder of Cuba's revolutionary and socialist cause and is dearly loved by the Cuban people and respected by the Chinese people.
This visit to Cuba is also to honor and enhance the historic friendship built by Castro and former Chinese leaders and to infuse new energy into China-Cuba relations, Xi noted.
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. During that meeting, Castro expressed his admiration for China's socio-economic achievements and China's rising international status.
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 the world's No 2 economy has an important impact on the peaceful development of the world.
Giving Xi a tour of his farm, Castro pointed out the moringa and mulberries — past presents from China. Castro said growing moringa and mulberries can help produce animal feed in Cuba. Echoing his Cuban friend, Xi said he brought some more seeds of both as presents for Castro to honor the friendship the two countries have formed.
In April, the China-Cuba Moringa Science and Technology Cooperation Center was launched at southwest China's Yunnan Tropical Crop Research Institute.
China is Cuba's second largest trading partner after Venezuela. Data from Chinese customs show that two-way trade grew 7.9 percent to $1.879 billion last year. China's exports of $1.374 billion to Cuba last year included refrigerators, buses, pickup trucks, power generators and other machinery products while Cuba's exports of $505 million to China were mainly nickel, sugar and other agricultural products.
"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 Raúl Castro's recent claim that he is a follower of the Chinese model of development," said Taylor. "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 in 1978."
Zhiqun Zhu, director of the China Institute and professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University, said with growing economic clout, China is becoming a major political and strategic force in Latin American countries.
"Despite some labeling of China's activities as 'neocolonialism', the fact is cooperation between China and Latin America is mutually beneficial, and China's investments are hotly pursued by Latin American governments," said Zhu.
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