President Fidel Castro’s designated successor, his brother Raul Castro, warmly commended China’s President Hu Jintao for achieving economic development without abandoning social progress.
While there was no official departure from Cuba’s current lack of openess to economic and political reform, Raul Castro, 73, hailed what he stressed was the Chinese Communist Party’s role in boosting China’s economic status while also insisting on social goals.
“China has achieved nothing short of a feat, transforming a poor, backward and multiethnic country into a genuine power,” Raul Castro said at a business forum which his brother did not attend.
“But this was not a miracle; rather it was achieved through the guidance of the Communist Party, which led toward socialism—using Chinese techniques—to this growth,” Raul Castro said.
In Cuba, “we, too, adopt socialism to buttress our independence and economic development,” Raul Castro added.
The visiting Chinese president, with army chief Raul Castro at the forum, said: “We have a solid base on which to deepen our ties due to our broad political commonalities. We both have chosen the socialist road for our development.”
But Hu did not address the glaring difference in choice of economic models between the communist allies: China has embraced a role in a capitalist global production system, booming along the way. Cuba has not and is in dire economic straits.
Beijing in turn has become a vital economic and political ally for the largely internationally isolated Fidel Castro, 78, who has been recovering from a broken knee since October.
Hu was completing his two-day stay in Cuba—capping a four-nation tour of Latin America—with talks with Raul Castro, whom the president has hand-picked as his successor despite his relative lack of popularity.
Only two hours after his arrival, Hu and Fidel Castro publicly signed 16 cooperation agreements, including one boosting the extraction of nickel from Cuba’s top world reserve estimated at 800 million tonnes.
The agreement calls for building an extraction facility that will produce 22,500 tons of nickel and cobalt per year.
Located in the Cuban province of Holguin, 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Havana, the Las Cariocas plant will boost Cuban nickel production from its current 75,000 tonnes a year to almost 100,000 tonnes, a long-sought goal of the Cuban government.
The plant will be 49 percent owned by China’s Minmetal and 51 percent by Cuba’s Cubaniquel monopoly.
China and Europe are the chief importers of Cuban nickel.
Other agreements signed by Hu and Castro favor the biotechnology, tourism, telecommunications, fishing, education and health sectors.
On the sidelines of the presidential summit, representatives of 37 Chinese and about 60 Cuban companies met Monday to explore bilateral trade opportunities.
Cuba was the final stop on Hu’s first Latin America tour since he became president in 2003.
He also went to Brazil, Argentina and Chile, where he attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum summit.
President Castro, who maintains the firm grip he has held over Cuba for 45 years, suffered a fall late last month which broke his left knee and confined him to a wheelchair.
Hu is making the third visit to Cuba by a Chinese president after his predecessor Jiang Zemin in 1993 and 2001. He is to leave Cuba late Tuesday (0100 GMT Wednesday).