CubaBrief: Havana echoes Beijing narrative on surveillance balloon. Brief review of relations between Communist China and Cuba. Beijing and Havana covered up COVID-19 deaths.

Chinese spy balloon

Communist China had a surveillance balloon travel across Alaska and the Continental United States for a week before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023.

Beijing claims it was a weather balloon, and Havana is repeating Communist China’s claim in its official press. China expert Gordon Chang warns that Beijing is preparing to invade Taiwan, is testing Washington’s resolve, and gathering more information on U.S. military capabilities.

The Castro regime’s foreign policy over the past 64 years has been guided by a profound anti-Americanism that pre-dates sanctions, and the severing of diplomatic relations.

The worsening of relations between the United States and China, the better the relations between Havana and Beijing.

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez walk during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.

Cuba’s ambassador to China, Carlos Pereira, and the vice-president of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, Tang Wenhong, signed a cooperation agreement formalizing the donation of 700 million yuan, equal to 100 million dollars, on January 18, 2023.  “We signed a cooperation agreement that formalizes a $100 million donation granted by China during the visit of President Miguel Díaz-Canel in November 2022,” the Cuban ambassador said via Twitter.

Chinese President for life Xi Jinping and Miguel Díaz-Canel y Bermúdez pledged mutual support over their fellow communist states’ “core interests” on November 25, 2022 in Beijing. Voice of America reported that Xi said China hoped to “strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs” with Cuba. The two will “go hand in hand down the road of building socialism with each’s own characteristics,” Xi was quoted as saying in a Chinese government news release.

On August 3, 2022, President Miguel Díaz-Canel y Bermúdez, the Castro dictatorship’s representative, joined other terror-sponsoring countries: Iran, North Korea, and Syria in publicly supporting the Chinese Communist dictatorship and condemning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the Republic of China (Taiwan).

On April 7, 2022 Cuba, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam, were among those who voted against suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council ( 93 voted to suspend, 24 against, and 58 abstentions.)

This relationship stretches back 63 years, with its highs and lows.

Brief history of Beijing – Havana relations

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Chairman Mao Zedong dining in 1960

On September 28, 1960, the Cuban government recognized the People’s Republic of China diplomatically.

This was at a time that Havana still had normal diplomatic relations with the United States, and sanctions had yet to be imposed. The Eisenhower State Department imposed the first trade embargo on Cuba less than a month later on October 19, 1960.

In November 1960, Ernesto “Che” Guevara led a Cuban delegation to Mainland China, where he met with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and other high-ranking Chinese officials to discuss conditions in Cuba and Latin America, as well as the prospects for communist revolution in the Western Hemisphere.

Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States were severed on January 3, 1961.

Beijing and Havana worked closely together between 1960 and 1964.

Relations between China and Cuba cooled in 1964 when the Castro regime sided with the Soviet Union in the Sino-Soviet split, but warmed again after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The Castro regime was one of the few governments to back the massacre, and the Castro regime had distanced itself from the Soviet Union, viewing Perestroika and Glasnost as existential threats to its rule.

Chinese Premier Li Peng and Fidel Castro in Havana in 1995.

Cuba’s relationship with the Soviet Union provided Havana with expertise in biological warfare and biotechnology that the Chinese had been denied due to the previously mentioned split. Beginning in the late 1980s, the Castro regime began offering that knowledge to their counterparts in Beijing, and in 2002, they signed a  formal agreement to produce monoclonal antibodies.

On July 1, 2020, at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Castro regime took the lead in supporting Hong Kong’s new security law, which effectively ended autonomy there.

China, Cuba and COVID-19 response

During the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the two regimes collaborated closely. The video above is a presentation on this relationship and its negative international impact given in April 2020. They continue to repeat their false narratives, claiming to have had a successful COVID-19 response, but the numbers and evidence indicate otherwise.

Cuban officials decided early on that they wanted to “be the first country in the world to vaccinate their whole population with their own vaccines,” and were willing to let Cubans die while developing domestic vaccines rather than importing them, including from their allies in Moscow and Beijing, to advance their “healthcare superpower” narrative.

Official government sources claimed that by August 2022, COVID-19 had killed 8,529 of Cuba’s 11 million people. However, independent estimates place the actual number of Cubans killed as a result of the pandemic at 62,000.

Communist China’s interest in maintaining the Castro dictatorship

Gordon G. Chang in his July 16, 2021 OpEd in Newsweek revealed the depth of the relationship between Havana and Beijing, and threat to both U.S. interests, and Cuba’s pro-democracy movement.

“China uses Cuba as a platform for many of its regional intelligence and security operations,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told Newsweek. “This includes a signals intelligence station used to intercept communications in the United States,” he added, referring to the Lourdes facility just west of Havana that was once operated by the Soviets.

“China’s relationship with Cuba was truncated following the Sino-Soviet split, in which Cuba allied with the Soviet Union,” Evan Ellis of the U.S. Army War College said to this publication. “Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the dramatic withdrawal of Soviet subsidies for Cuba, China strengthened its relationship somewhat by stepping into the breach.”

Beijing at first was “cautious” in its overt support for Havana, Ellis said, because it was worried about Washington’s reaction. Now, the Chinese are far bolder. “Along with Venezuela, China is the largest benefactor to the Cuban regime,” Humire points out. China has helped build out Cuba’s internet and communications backbone with, for instance, equipment and software from Huawei Technologies, China’s “national champion” telecom-equipment supplier, as well as sister company ZTE. Beijing’s expertise has given President Miguel Díaz-Canel the ability to shut down internet traffic on a whim. There have, in recent days, been outages apparently designed to prevent news of the fast-spreading demonstrations from spreading even faster. “Chinese companies today are providing prototype Chinese ‘social credit’ architectures to help implement in Cuba the ‘controlled’ access to modern communications and information technologies seen in China,” Ellis told Newsweek.

Telesur, January 18, 2023

News > Cuba

China Makes Official Donation of $100 Million to Cuba

Cuba and China signed a cooperation agreement formalizing the donation of 700 million yuan, equivalent to 100 million dollars. Jan. 18, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/@CubaMINREX

Cuba’s ambassador to China, Carlos Pereira, and the vice-president of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, Tang Wenhong, signed a cooperation agreement formalizing the donation of 700 million yuan, equal to 100 million dollars, on Wednesday.

“We signed a cooperation agreement that formalizes a $100 million donation granted by China during the visit of President Miguel Díaz-Canel in November 2022,” the Cuban ambassador said via Twitter.

According to the official, the donation “will be destined to the execution of projects of high social impact.” Pereira said it is ratification “of China’s strategic participation in our economic and social development plans.”

In this regard, both Pereira and Wenhong reviewed the progress made in the bilateral cooperation agenda and the implementation of the agreements reached during the official visit of the Cuban President to China.

In late November, the Cuban President paid an official visit to China, which he considered satisfactory and above his expectations. 

The Chinese government is committed to Cuba’s development based on cooperation, Díaz-Canel said, highlighting biotechnology; the energy sector; and the fields of information technology and cybersecurity in the collaboration between the two nations. 

Cuba and China also develop bilateral cooperation in education and science. Diplomatic relations between the two nations date back to 1960, with Cuba being the first Latin American country to establish ties with China. 

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/China-Makes-Official-Donation-of-100-Million-to-Cuba-20230118-0014.html

Associated Press, November 25, 2022

China’s Xi pledges support for Cuba on ‘core interests’

November 25, 2022

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Cuban counterpart pledged mutual support over their fellow communist states’ “core interests” Friday at a meeting further hailing a return to face-to-face diplomacy by Beijing.

In comments to Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, Xi said China hoped to “strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs” with Cuba. The two will “go hand in hand down the road of building socialism with each’s own characteristics,” Xi was quoted as saying in a Chinese government news release.

China generally defines core interests as the defense of its economic and political development aims, along with control over territory it claims, especially self-governing Taiwan.

No specific issues or other countries were mentioned in the Chinese government news release.

Diaz-Canel’s visit is a further sign of how China is trying to jump-start its in-person diplomacy after a virtual shutdown of such exchanges during the pandemic.

Xi, who is also the leader of the ruling Communist Party and has eliminated term limits to allow him to remain in power indefinitely, met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month in Beijing, then attended the meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies in Indonesia and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Thailand.

Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh and European Council President Charles Michel are due to 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.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba grew closer, just as China and Russia gradually established warmer ties, largely in opposition to the U.S.-led liberal democratic global order.

In the Chinese news release, Diaz-Canel was quoted 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 key oil producer Colombia, and has provided buses, locomotives and other equipment for the island’s drive to upgrade its decrepit infrastructure. Chinese firms have also invested in mineral extraction in Cuba but on a limited scale.

https://apnews.com/article/europe-china-cuba-diplomacy-beijing-dedcf1ce9138278b5ac5843070036398


Newsweek, July 16, 2021

Opinion

Can China Stop a Revolution in Cuba? | Opinion

Gordon G. Chang , Author, commentator
On 7/16/21 at 7:30 AM EDT

“Down with the dictatorship,” exclaimed Pedro Del Cueto to a PBS NewsHour reporter. “Down with the Castros. Down with the communist dogs.”

What started as a protest on Sunday against, among other things, a lack of COVID vaccines and rising prices, has become far more dangerous to the ruling Communist Party of Cuba. Protestors have marched to its headquarters and are flying the American flag, signs that the demonstrations in more than 40 cities and towns could lead to fundamental political change on the island.

Could Cuba’s worst economic crisis in 30 years become its first revolution in 62?

It’s not only the Cuban regime that is nervous. The rulers in Beijing also appear anxious, as they have everything at stake in what happens half a world away.

Why? As an initial matter, the Chinese state is heavily invested in Cuba. “China uses Cuba as a platform for many of its regional intelligence and security operations,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told Newsweek. “This includes a signals intelligence station used to intercept communications in the United States,” he added, referring to the Lourdes facility just west of Havana that was once operated by the Soviets.

“China’s relationship with Cuba was truncated following the Sino-Soviet split, in which Cuba allied with the Soviet Union,” Evan Ellis of the U.S. Army War College said to this publication. “Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the dramatic withdrawal of Soviet subsidies for Cuba, China strengthened its relationship somewhat by stepping into the breach.”

Beijing at first was “cautious” in its overt support for Havana, Ellis said, because it was worried about Washington’s reaction. Now, the Chinese are far bolder. “Along with Venezuela, China is the largest benefactor to the Cuban regime,” Humire points out.

China has helped build out Cuba’s internet and communications backbone with, for instance, equipment and software from Huawei Technologies, China’s “national champion” telecom-equipment supplier, as well as sister company ZTE. Beijing’s expertise has given President Miguel Díaz-Canel the ability to shut down internet traffic on a whim. There have, in recent days, been outages apparently designed to prevent news of the fast-spreading demonstrations from spreading even faster.

“Chinese companies today are providing prototype Chinese ‘social credit’ architectures to help implement in Cuba the ‘controlled’ access to modern communications and information technologies seen in China,” Ellis told Newsweek.

China’s leaders back Havana because they know they have more than a listening post and developmental projects at risk. The very existence of the Chinese regime, they believe, is also on the line. After every previous wave of protests elsewhere—the momentous demonstrations of 1989, the Arab Spring and all the “color revolutions”—the Communist Party of China has worked overtime to prevent foreign freedom movements from inspiring the Chinese people to topple their rulers.

At first glance, Beijing, having helped create wealth for many Chinese people, does not have to worry about unrest caused by impoverished Cubans. The problem for China’s leaders, however, is that protests are about more than just destitution. Wealthy residents in Hong Kong—which has a per capita gross domestic product 5.3 times that of Cuba—took to the streets in 2019 in massive numbers, and they are continuing to show resistance in other ways. Freedom, communist parties know, is highly contagious.

So far, Beijing has been extraordinarily successful in not only keeping power at home, but also in helping roll back democracy around the world. “Certainly, authoritarian regimes appear to be having a good run right now,” writes Gerald Seib from his perch at The Wall Street Journal.

“The long democratic recession is deepening,” Freedom House observed in its most recent worldwide survey. The organization reports that global freedom has been in decline for 15 consecutive years.

Seib’s headline says it all: “Cuba’s Unrest Frames World’s Big Struggle: Dictators vs. Democracies.”

China’s rulers understand the gravity of the situation and are working overtime to spread Havana-friendly narratives. “As the Cuban side pointed out, the U.S. embargo is the root cause of Cuba’s shortages of medicines and energy,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday at his regular press briefing. “The U.S. should fully lift its embargo on Cuba and play a positive role in helping the Cuban people overcome the effects of the epidemic.”

Last month, the UN General Assembly, for the 29th straight year, called on Washington to end its embargo of Cuba. Zhao said the UN resolution “shows the widespread call from the international community.”

And it is also the will of President Joe Biden, who campaigned on ending the embargo. During the Obama-Biden administration, the U.S. recognized the Castro regime and moved to reestablish economic relations. Trump tightened the embargo and added the island republic to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror.

It is not clear what Biden will now do. On Monday, the president issued a statement calling on the Cuban regime “to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment, rather than enriching themselves.” The White House, however, has remained quiet, continuing to duck the issue as it has most of this year. “Where is Biden?” protestors chanted in Tampa on Tuesday.

Biden, if he were as active in defeating the Cuban regime as China is in supporting it, could tip the balance. History, in any event, will be written at this moment. “It’s hard to say whether Cubans on the streets, like citizens of Hong Kong pushing back against Chinese central government repression there, represent the beginnings of a new anti-authoritarian tide or mere footnotes in a generally bad time for those who cheer for democracy,” Seib wrote.

Whether Díaz-Canel can quell the protests depends, in part, on whether Biden imposes costs on Havana’s use of force. Will the American president use his power to stop the Cuban leader from stopping the nationwide protests?

Biden should take his cue from China and realize America, whether he likes it or not, is involved in a ferocious struggle everywhere. After all, the battle between dictatorship and democracy, which is not going well at the moment, is global.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter: @GordonGChang.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

https://www.newsweek.com/can-china-stop-revolution-cuba-opinion-1610306

Center for a Secure Free Society, June 25, 2015

Research: Security

General Fan Visits Havana

  •  Fernando Menéndez

  • June 25, 2015

After concluding a five day visit to the United States, Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, flew directly to Havana, Cuba, the first Chinese official of such high rank to travel to the island since Cuba and the United States began talks to normalize relations. Given Gen Fan’s rank, second only to President Xi Jinping who chairs the commission and serves as commander-in-chief, this is hardly a courtesy visit.

The arrival of Gen. Fan in Havana immediately unleashed widespread speculation about the triangular relationship between China, Cuba and the United States. Some items on his agenda can be discerned given China-Cuba relations in the past.

China and Cuba are longtime economic, military and political allies. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, China increased its footprint in Cuba through trade, loans and investments. In the past two decades Chinese-manufactured buses, refrigerators and electronic equipment, food and other goods are omnipresent throughout Cuba at a time of critical shortages. China has invested in Cuba’s nickel mining facilities, financed offshore oil exploration and built hotels and other tourism facilities on the island. Despite the miniscule nature of Cuba’s domestic market, China has extended loans and other aid to the Cuban government.

The Chinese presence in Cuba dates back to the 1840s. Coming as contract laborers, under conditions hardly different from slavery, the Chinese migrants eventually intermarried and became an integral part of a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society. Chinese troops fought in Cuba’s Ten Years War and the War of Independence. Many more came after political turmoil in the early 20th century, and eventually became known as Chinese Cubans or古巴华人. From the painter Wilfredo Lam to the ballet dance Yat-Sen Chang Oliva, Chinese influence in Cuba is pronounced. In cities like Havana, a significant number of Cubans claim Chinese ancestry. It is not the first time that countries so far apart and so different in size as Cuba and China have found their fates intertwined.

As a Cuban ally, the Chinese are clearly sending a message both to Havana and Washington that their support for the island nation will continue regardless of the normalization of relations. This is particularly important for the Cuban government since China is a rising power and an emerging player in the economies of Latin America. China is increasing its collaboration with CELAC (Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean), and alternative to the OAS, which Cuba has presided over, that excludes the U.S. and Canada.

China, however, is principally interested in knowing the nature of the negotiation talks between Cuba and the U.S. As an emerging power in the Americas, military and political agreements that could affect China’s interests are predominant. Having invested significantly in Cuba’s ally Venezuela, for example, the Chinese government may want an assessment from the Cuban perspective of the strength or weaknesses of that government.

Venezuela received the single largest Chinese investment in the Americas, a $55 billion oil-for-cash scheme. The country is politically polarized, showing deep instability and is on the verge of economic collapse. Cuba’s intelligence services and military are deeply embedded in the Venezuela command structures and are aware of divisions in the ranks as well as the prospects of turmoil. Where China’s interests in Venezuela are concerned, Cuba is more likely to provide it with an accurate picture.

Cuba’s proximity to the United States is also of strategic importance. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union operated a signal intelligence post in the town of Lourdes, outside Havana. This listening post had the capacity to intercept messages going to and from the United States, and some analysts believe it could also monitor commercial communication throughout the eastern coast of the United States until it was dismantled in 2001. With over 3000 Soviet operatives, the post was the largest such base outside of the Soviet Union.

Recently, as Russia wrote off 90 percent of Cuba’s long standing debt of $35 billion, much of it dated from the time of the Soviet Union, the two countries agreed to the re-establishment of the listening facility. Access to signal intelligence concerning the United States would prove a serious asset to China’s military and security community. On the other hand, maintaining such a facility might be a stumbling block to further normalization of relations. Given rising tensions with Russia and a limited, but increasing, rise in tension with China, U.S. national security concerns could be compromised by the existence of a signal intelligence facility in Cuba.

More serious is Cuba’s public insistence during the negotiations that the United States return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. This comes at a time when Russia has expressed an interest in establishing bases in the Americas, namely, in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, among other countries. The prospect of a Russian naval base in the Caribbean makes Cuba’s insistence on the return of Guantanamo a deal breaker for the United States. China’s access is, similarly, a nonstarter.

These and a host of other issues were surely on Gen. Fan’s agenda. The framework of the new era of U.S.-Cuba normalization is being developed in talks in Havana and Washington. China, it appears, as an emerging power is defining its interests in the region and seems prepared to play a role shaping the future, even if it is behind the scenes.

https://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/general-fan-visits-havana/#sthash.NsMQEo4j.dpuf

https://www.securefreesociety.org/research/general-fan-visits-havana/