Cuba Dances with China


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The two largest economic partners for Cuba today are Venezuela and China. Venezuela provides oil to Cuba in exchange for a finely tuned barter arrangement for tens of thousands of doctors deployed throughout Venezuelan cities and villages. China is pumping “tied aid” and financing into Cuba because it smells mercantilist opportunities there.
On Friday, Wu Guanzheng — a member of the Standing Committee of China’s Communist Party Poliburo — arrived for four days of meetings. He has since met with both acting President Raul Castro as well as the ailing Fidel Castro.
From my recent trip to Cuba, it became clear that China is moving quickly up in economic significance to the Cuban government. My hunch is that it will not take long for China to overtake Venezuela as the most important economic partner to Cuba.
One Cuban government official told me that Cuba has a history of always being dependent on some outside government. For a while it was America, until the revolution. Then Cuba’s patron became the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Soviets and the Socialist Bloc, Cuba scrounged desperately around and remodeled much of its internal economy to survive a 35% plunge in its GDP when Soviet transfer payments stopped. Venezuela and China have become the patrons of the moment.
But many in the Cuban government look at Venezuela as a peer nation, whereas being attached to “a superpower” has a “completely different set of realities,” said a prominent Cuban economist to me.
China is not yet a superpower on the scale of the former USSR or the US, but it is clearly ascending and is building important economic bridges with Cuba — and its projected 9 billion barrels of crude and sizable natural gas reserves.
Venezuela’s attempts to colonize Cuba are driven more by Hugo Chavez’s regional political pretensions. China is expanding its relations to secure energy sources and economic partners — but is far more incrementalist and responsible as it inches toward the island nation just off America’s coast.
But what continues to defy logic is America’s absence as these economic currents turn in directions away from US interests.
While I was in Havana, I discovered that significant citrus groves were managed by Israeli firms. I saw a Benetton store in old Havana. On my roof at the Parque Central Hotel, British Petroleum was having a large party — attended by many Cuban nationals. BP bought and manages today ARCO’s former oil operations in Alaska’s oil fields.
BP can apparently sniff around in Cuba for opportunities — but American firms are still stymied in what has become an enormously ineffective embargo.
— Steve Clemons


5 comments on “Cuba Dances with China

  1. Dennis says:

    Cuba could have and should have been on our list of “friends” years ago. And would have been except for the arrogance of leaders in our government who insist on having “control” of Cuba.
    Instead, most of Central and South America hate our guts and we have lost them as friends.
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.


  2. daCascadian says:

    This will continue as long as people focus on those whose “strings” are pulled & not on those pulling said “strings”.
    Follow the money & I don`t mean the “local” money. For instance, why is China so willing to continue to fund American stupidity ?
    “We the people…” are far too willing to dance to the propaganda.
    “If you`re not nervous, you don`t understand what`s happening.” – John Young


  3. Carroll says:

    It is so dumb…and we can thank the idiot Jesse Helms for most of this…


  4. Robert M. says:

    Really, this is the best example of the Irrational Mode trumping all since it all started. It was a sub-theme throughout my 1970 Latin American History class & it was quite old then. Kill ’em with kindness; keep your enemies closer, etc. But, no!
    Only a complete Republican rout in ’08 will de-charge the power line that the Greater Cuban-American community has on this “3rd rail” issue in American Foreign Policy. They vote & financially support Republicans–period. They will have no leverage & once ban is lifted even Senator Mel Martinez will be on aboard as the families will vote with their feet & dollars for re-contact.
    This has always been an American domestic political issue going back to the Buckley National Review’s frothing. The added rise of China-On-Our-Doorstep or “The Yellow Peril 90 Miles from Key West” could be the topper issue that the next (Dem) Admin needs to overturn the total ban or at least initiate a steady stream of phase outs. (But carefully stated as Beijing is still buying our Treasury Notes.)
    Of course, what’s happening in Iraq is the Triumph of the Delusional (re the Petreaus Overflight Story: “why he’s watering his lawn!”).
    And Wolfie getting touchy-feely with Fred Thompson’s blondie trophy wife at the Correspondent’s Dinner! The sense of Rome Burning while Nero Fiddled is growing for me.


  5. john somer says:

    It wasn’t only the Soviet Union that underpinned the Castro regime, it was the whole of the Communist bloc and the East European countries that had been forced by Moscow to participate in the financing of the Cuban revolution resented it tremendously. I still remember the scathing comments the Czech ambassador made in 1973 in the safety of his office (which had been efficiently debugged by his own secret police), calling the Cuban industry “just a bunch of derelict workshops” and telling me that when he was in Chile under president Frei, he had told Prague that then Senator Salvador Allende was “an economic illiterate who would drive his country to ruin”, a forecast that proved absolutely true. I found it prudent not to ask for his opinion of Fidel….


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