Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived in Cuba for a three-day visit “to strengthen the already broad and excellent relations between Cuba and the Peoples Republic of China,” according to official Cuban sources.

“It is common knowledge that China and Cuba have very good bilateral relations,” stated China’s ambassador to Cuba, Wang Chengjia. “Cuba and China are both socialist countries; we share the same ideals and objectives,” Wang declared.

The statements were carried by Radio Habana Cuba, the official broadcasting service of the Cuban government.

Jiang’s Cuban tour, which began Thursday, is part of an extended trip throughout much of Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela and Chile, as well as a number of Central American states. This is Jiang’s first official visit to the region since 1993 and occurred in the midst of the Chinese-U.S. crisis over 24 U.S. service personnel held for 11 days in China.

Jiang is visiting Cuba, according to Radio Habana, in response to an invitation from Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Trade and other forms of mutual cooperation are expected to increase even further after Jiang’s visit to the island, especially in the areas of electronics and telecommunications.

China-Cuban trade already stands at some $500 million annually.

Just prior to Jiang’s arrival on the island, Havana and Beijing signed an accord in the “electronics, infomatics and telecommunications sector,” according to Cuban sources.

China and Cuba are planning joint production of “TVs, VCRs, air conditioners, mobile telephones, and short-wave radios” for both Cuban consumption and foreign export, Havana stated.

Although no mention was made of any military use of China’s high-tech aid to Cuba, some observers are uneasy about Beijing’s increasingly sophisticated technological assistance to Havana.

Beijing is in possession of advanced technology from U.S., western European and Russian sources — and some sources claim that China is already operating a spy base in Cuba similar to the Russian surveillance facility at Lourdes.

U.S.-Cuban relations remain very cool, even hostile at times. While the U.S. condemns a variety of human-rights abuses on the Caribbean island, Cuba regularly denounces various U.S. activities throughout the world.

In April 2000, at a meeting of under-developed nations in Havana, Castro called for “Nuremberg trials” for the leaders of the “current economic world order,” of which the U.S. is seen by Cuba as the prime moving force.

It was Easter weekend exactly one year ago that saw the culmination of another tense incident in U.S.-Cuban relations. In an early-morning raid, U.S. Justice Department officials seized 6-year-old Cuban Elian Gonzalez from his relatives’ home in Miami before returning him to the custody of his father, who returned him to Cuba. Gonzalez had been rescued at sea after a shipwreck that cost his mother her life, as she attempted to secure freedom for her family in the U.S.

Cuban-U.S. ties have also been affected by the ongoing trial of the participants in the “Wasp Network”, a group of Cuban agents allegedly seeking to acquire sensitive military information regarding U.S. defenses, as well as attempting to cripple ant-Castro forces in the U.S.

The leader of the “Wasp Network” has been implicated in the death of several Cuban exiles whose plane was intercepted and destroyed by Cuban jet fighters. The exiles were attempting to aid refugees fleeing the communist-held island.

Jiang’s visit also is provoking concern in Taiwan. The government of the Republic of China on Taiwan has expressed concern that Jiang is seeking to undermine support for the ROC in Central America.

Taiwan believes that Jiang is attempting during his tour to “increase China’s influence” among nations that have been “staunch allies of Taiwan,” according to Radio Taipei International, the official broadcasting service of the ROC.

China regards Taiwan as a rebel province and has vowed to retake the island — by force if necessary. Taiwan regards itself as the heir to the Republic of China established by Sun Yat-sen in 1912 after the overthrow of the last Manchu monarch.

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