Cuba in a Global Context: International Relations, Internationalism, and Transnationalism

By Catherine Krull | Go to book overview

5
Cuban-Chinese Relations after the End of the Cold War

CARLOS ALZUGARAY TRETO

In the relatively short period of twenty years since the end of the Cold War, China has become one of Cuba’s main strategic allies. Simultaneously, the Caribbean nation has turned into one of the Middle Kingdom’s most significant partners in the Western Hemisphere. From a political standpoint, Cuba and China share two important traits: their political leaders openly proclaim that they are endeavoring to build a socialist economic system with “national characteristics”; and their communist parties have exercised basically unchallenged ideological and political hegemony ever since the victories of their respective revolutions in 1949 and 1959.

Nevertheless, in 1989 few experts would have predicted such an expansion and consolidation of relations between the two countries. Cuba and China are on opposite sides of the planet. They are completely different in terms of population and territory, and their national, political, and cultural identities contrast significantly. Moreover, despite an auspicious beginning to their relations in the 1960s, for the better part of twenty years, from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, Havana and Beijing often found themselves on opposite sides of major international issues.1

How and why, then, did Cuba and China become such close allies after the end of the Cold War? From my standpoint, answering this question entails approaching the subject from historical and political points of view and dividing the chronology into four periods: a synopsis of relations before 1989; a summary of the main steps taken by both governments to improve their interactions between 1989 and 2001; a presentation of the situation since 2001; and an analysis of the interests and preferences that have determined the present state of Cuban-Chinese connections.


Background: 1959–1989

Historically, the relationships between Cuba and China go back to the nineteenth century, when the Spanish colonial regime started to import Chinese

-89-

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