China vows financial aid to Castro


CHINA yesterday pledged financial aid to Cuba as it undertakes historic economic reforms, promising visiting President Raul Castro a new credit line as well as help in health care and technology.

The offers were announced after a meeting between Castro and Chinese President Hu Jintao during which the two leaders spoke warmly about the strong ties between the longtime communist allies. "We are very pleased that in recent years, the relationship between China and Cuba has continued to deepen and develop," Castro told Hu in brief comments before the media.

Hu highlighted the fact he had visited Cuba three times, and said he appreciated Castro's efforts in building relations with China.

After their meeting, the two sides said they had signed eight agreements aimed at deepening economic and political ties.

These included promises by China of financial aid, an interest-free loan and a credit-line to Cuba to help the country in a range of sectors, including technology and health care.

Few other details, including the sizes of the loans and aid, were given. Castro's four-day visit to China, which began on Wednesday, comes at a crucial time for Cuba as it is in the throes of overhauling its economy towards a system that incorporates elements of capitalism.

China has embarked on an economic reform programme over recent decades that has achieved stunning results, and analysts said Castro's visit would also be a good opportunity for him to survey the Chinese success story.

"Cuba can learn many things from other socialist countries that have been economically successful, like China," said Yang Jianmin, a deputy director of the Centre for Cuban Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He said some of the most notable reforms Cuba could look at were in areas such as market stability, exports, investment and requirements needed to open companies.AFP
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