China agreed to support Cuba's health system and economic development yesterday as the two countries signed eight deals designed to boost co-operation.
The signing of the deals was witnessed by President Hu Jintao and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, after talks in Beijing.
They include a line of credit to develop Cuba's health system and an interest-free loan to support economic development. The two countries also signed documents on co-operation in the agriculture and customs sectors. But details of the deals and the amount of the loans were not disclosed.
Castro arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a four-day visit to Cuba's longtime ally.
His trip to China, the first since he succeeded his brother, Fidel, in 2008, is critical to Cuba as the country is implementing an economic reform plan that includes initiatives to let the private sector participate in its planned economy.
In his talks with Hu yesterday, Castro said he held the 'successful development experience of China' in high regard and Havana wanted to expand economic co-operation in trade, renewable energy and investment. 'Cuba-China ties have become mature and passed through historical tests,' he told Hu.
Addressing Castro as comrade, Hu said he appreciated Havana's effort to improve ties and vowed that the two countries would expand high-level exchanges, trade and investment, cultural exchanges and co-operation at the United Nations.
In a separate meeting, National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo told Castro that China would continue to provide support to Cuba.
Trade between China and Cuba increased from US$590 million in 2004 to US$1.8 billion in 2010, making China Cuba's second-biggest trading partner, after Venezuela.
Analysts said the signing of the deals could further boost China's influence in the only communist regime in the Americas.
'Both countries want to realise some concrete results out of their friendly ties, which are based on sharing the same political ideology,' said Dong Jingsheng, a Latin American affairs expert at Peking University.
Dong said the deals could pave the way for Chinese enterprises to participate in Cuban infrastructure projects, such as railway and port construction, and ensure a supply of energy and natural resources from Latin America for China's economic development needs.
Castro will meet Premier Wen Jiabao , Vice-President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang today.
Xu Shicheng, another Latin American affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the meeting between Castro and Xi and Li, who are expected to replace Hu and Wen next year, could further cement ties between the two countries.
Castro, 81, will leave for Vietnam, another communist ally that has also launched economic reforms, tomorrow.
Trade between Cuba and Vietnam reached US$269 million in 2010.