China has lost a ‘great’ friend

Xi praises Fidel Castro, a much loved fig­ure for Chi­nese peo­ple

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAOHUANXIN in Bei­jing zhaohuanxin@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Few for­eign lead­ers have been more en­dear­ing to Chi­nese peo­ple than Fidel Castro, the charis­matic Cuban rev­o­lu­tion­ary whose death at age 90 late Fri­day has prompted con­do­lences and com­men­da­tions from the bl­o­go­sphere and Bei­jing lead­er­ship.

Call­ing him “a great fig­ure of our times”, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said Castro’s death meant the Chi­nese peo­ple had lost a close com­rade and sin­cere friend.

“His glo­ri­ous image and great achieve­ments will go down in his­tory,” said Xi, who vis­ited with the man known to most Cubans as “El Co­man­dante” — the com­man­der — in 2011 and 2014.

“The great com­rade Fidel Castro will be for­ever re­mem­bered,” Xi said on Satur­day.

Premier Li Ke­qiang, who had talked with Castro in Ha­vana on Sept 25, also lav­ished him with praise.

In his mes­sage of con­do­lence to Cuban leader Raul

Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, Li hailed the el­der Castro as “the founder, de­fender and pro­pel­ler of China-Cuba ties”.

Fidel Castro led Cuba for nearly half a cen­tury be­fore step­ping down for health rea­sons in 2006, when he passed the ba­ton to his brother.

Li said China stands ready to in­herit and carry for­ward the tra­di­tional friend­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

State broad­caster China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion aired a doc­u­men­tary hours af­ter Castro died, show­ing an im­pas­sioned fig­ure ask­ing a huge gath­er­ing at Ha­vana’s Rev­o­lu­tion Square­onSept 2, 1960, if the Cuban peo­ple would like to es­tab­lish diplo­matic re­la­tions with the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China.

The crowd’s pos­i­tive re­sponse was over­whelm­ing.

In 26 days, Cuba be­came the first na­tion in the Western Hemi­sphere to forge diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship with NewChina.

“Many of the older gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese live with a nos­tal­gic, sweet mem­ory of singing the lyrics to Beau­ti­ful Ha­vana and tast­ing Cuban sugar,” ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­men­tary.

Zhang Tuo, Chi­nese am­bas­sador to Cuba, said, “Both the Chi­nese and Cuban sides ex­pect to trans­late their good po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions into fruit­ful prag­matic co­op­er­a­tion, and usher in a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial part­ner­ship at a new stage.”

For decades, Castro im­pressed gen­er­a­tions of Chi­nese peo­ple with a mix of charisma and iron will in, for half a cen­tury, de­fy­ing the United States and un­wa­ver­ingly com­mit­ting Cuba to so­cial­ism.

Pic­tures or ar­ti­facts de­pict­ing Castro as a tall, bearded man, wear­ing a green mil­i­tary uni­form, and puff­ing his trade­mark Co­hiba cigars, could be found in many Chi­nese house­holds.

Sev­eral of his books, in­clud­ing his 1,000-page mem­oir Fidel Castro Ruz: Guer­rilla of Time, have been trans­lated into Chi­nese.

Sto­ries based on Castro’s le­gendary sta­tus, in­clud­ing his sur­vival af­ter nu­mer­ous as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts and his re­la­tions with late Chi­nese leader Mao Ze­dong, have been told and re­told in China. Of­ten, with each retelling, Castro’s sta­tus and deeds would grow.

When lead­ing a guer­rilla force in the rugged Sierra Maes­tra moun­tains in the late 1950s, Castro was widely be­lieved to have read and drawn in­spi­ra­tion from On Pro­tracted War, a mon­u­men­tal work drawn from speeches Mao gave in 1938 to guide China

Even when he was re­tired, at such an ad­vanced age and with com­pro­mised health, what he thought about was how to im­prove the well-be­ing of his peo­ple.” Liu Yuqin, Chi­nese am­bas­sador to Cuba, 2010-12

in de­feat­ing the in­vad­ing Ja­panese army.

Al­though a re­port said Castro hadn’t read the book un­til the 1960s, af­ter Cuban dic­ta­tor Ful­gen­cio Batista was over­thrown, Xu Yi­cong, a for­mer Chi­nese am­bas­sador to Cuba, said Castro had told him thatMao’s thoughts, es­pe­cially his mil­i­tary strate­gies, had in­flu­enced him in the course of lead­ing the Cuban armed strug­gle.

Ernesto “Che” Gue­vara, one of Castro’s clos­est com­rades in the rev­o­lu­tion, told Mao in Bei­jing in 1960, “Your ideas about guerilla war­fare have guided us to vic­tory.”

Castro said he al­ways wished he had also met Mao in per­son. He once sent the gift of a pis­tol to Mao, with Mao’s name in­scribed on it. Nearly two decades af­ter Mao passed away in 1976, Castro paid a tri­bune to Mao at his me­mo­rial in De­cem­ber 1995, when he first vis­ited China.

Xu re­mem­bered Castro scaled the Great Wall and tasted roast duck and also liked China’s swee­t­os­man­thus fla­vored wine.

Castro vis­ited China again in Fe­bru­ary 2003, when he learned aboutChina’s so­cial­ist­mar­ket sys­tem and the re­form of Sta­te­owned firms from then-premier Zhu Rongji.

In 2004, Castro was seen singing The East Is Red, one of the most pop­u­lar Chi­nese songs linked to Mao, on Cuban tele­vi­sion.

Liu Yuqin, Chi­nese am­bas­sador to Cuba be­tween Fe­bru­ary 2010 and Jan­uary 2012, said: “I think he was in­deed a great leader. Even when he was re­tired, at such an ad­vanced age and with com­pro­mised health, what he thought about was how to im­prove the well-be­ing of his peo­ple.”

leave flow­ers out­side the Cuban em­bassy in Moscow to pay tribute to the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader.

XU JINGXING / CHINA DAILY

Top: Fidel Castro, on his first trip to China, vis­its the Great Wall in Bei­jing on Dec 1, 1995.

XIN­HUA

Above: Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping greets Castro in Ha­vana, cap­i­tal of Cuba, on July 22, 2014.

LIU XU / CHINA NEWS SER­VICE

Mourn­ers place flow­ers out­side the Cuban em­bassy in Bei­jing on Sun­day.

VITALIY BELOUSOV/ SPUT­NIK

Mus­covites

1976

1961

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