Castro’s death a reminder of changed communist axis
In the shadow of east Beijing’s soaring glass skyscrapers, elderly retirees still speak nostalgically about their Cuban brothers-in-arm, faraway comrades bound by communist solidarity. But in central Beijing’s halls of power, Cuba is perhaps seen these days as something less romantic: a market for China’s booming private-sector exports.
Viewed from the world’s largest communist country, Fidel Castro’s death is a reminder of how the communist axis has changed beyond recognition since the ideologically charged era when the bearded revolutionary cut a dashing figure on the world stage alongside leaders like Mao Zedong.
After establishing diplomatic relations in 1960, the countries’ fortunes diverged over the ensuing decades: China began adopting free-market reforms in the 1980s and morphed into an economic powerhouse - Communist mostly in name - while Castro persisted with Marxism, Cuba’s economy hobbling on.
Today, the two countries’ leaders frequently nod to their shared ideological history, but bilateral relations revolve more around jointly developed beach resorts or Chinese telecoms investments. In a September visit, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered to support Cuba’s development as a “comrade and brother,” while Castro congratulated China on the growth it has achieved and sought assistance in agricultural technology. At around $2.2 billion a year, trade between the two countries is dwarfed by China’s commerce with the rest of Latin America, which totals $236 billion, according to Chinese state media. But China is Cuba’s top creditor and secondlargest trading partner after Venezuela, and ties have deepened swiftly. In December, Air China launched a direct flight from Beijing to Havana largely to serve burgeoning Chinese tourists looking to spend holidays in the island nation.
“After China deepened reform and opened up in early 1990s, the development of bilateral ties between China and Cuba did not focus too much on ideology,” said Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University. “Economic development and cooperation, which were beneficial to economic and social development in both countries, became more important.”
Geopolitical tectonics have realigned in other ways since Castro’s prime. Cuba restored diplomatic relations with the United States last year after a halfcentury freeze, a rapprochement that China viewed warily. Meanwhile, Washington lifted an arms embargo against Vietnam, another erstwhile communist enemy, and has backed Hanoi in maritime disputes against neighboring China. — AP
SEOUL: South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea yesterday. — AP
HAVANA: In this July 22, 2014 file photo, Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro (right) greets China’s President Xi Jinping in Havana. — AP