12:00 GMT +322 October 2019
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    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) is received by Cuban President Raul Castro (R) at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana

    China-Cuba Partnership: Beijing Boosting Presence in Washington’s 'Backyard'

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    Currently, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is on a visit to Cuba. Beijing and Havana has already signed nearly 30 agreements, including new financial loans.

    Amid the current changes in Latin America and US and Japanese efforts to build ties with Cuba, the visit by the Chinese prime minister is of strategic importance, said Boris Martynov, deputy head of the Institute for Latin American Studies.

    Li Keqiang is the first Chinese prime minister to visit Cuba. However, over the recent years a number of Chinese high-profile officials have made numerous trips to the island.

    According to Chinese expert Yang Mian the visit would boost ties between Beijing and Havana at a time when the United States admitted the failure of its sanctions policy against Cuba.

    "In addition, this visit has more pragmatic goals, including a number of joint projects between China and Cuba. Currently, the Cuban government is implementing structural reforms and Beijing’s experience could help them," he told Sputnik.

    In March, US President Barack Obama visited Cuba. Several days ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also visited the country and met with Presidenr Raul Castro. According to Martynov, Beijing wants to know US and Japanese interests in the region.

    "Cuba is slowly but steadily getting back to the global market. There will be competition to be the first in building ties with Havana. Latin America is a region of a standoff between the US and China. Washington is losing its influence in the region to Beijing," he told Sputnik.

    Two years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined his strategy for Chinese-Cuban relations. The two countries should remain partners, first of all including in economy.

    China partially wrote off Cuba’s debt but during the visit Beijing approved four new credit lines for Havana.

    According to Martynov, Cuba has a number of economic advantages for investments, including tourism, oil exploration and ports.

    "The US is conducting a humanitarian intervention in Cuba but Washington is delaying the removal of sanctions. Moreover, the US Congress approved toughening sanctions against Havana. Until sanctions are lifted the West will not be able to develop economic cooperation with Cuba," Martynov said.

    At the same time, China’s efforts, including new loans, will further strengthen partnership between Beijing and Havana. Cuba is the window to Latin America for China, the expert added.


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