Sobre El Socialismo En Cuba

By Mesa-Lago, Carmelo | Cuban Studies, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Sobre El Socialismo En Cuba


Mesa-Lago, Carmelo, Cuban Studies


Mao Xianglin. Sobre el socialismo en Cuba. Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2014. 410 pp.

Professor Mao Xianglin is a Chinese scholar who for three decades has done research and published two previous books on Cuba. He is adviser to the Center for the Study of Cuba, Institute of Latin American Studies, and researcher in the Center for the Study of World Socialism, both at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and a foreign correspondent for the U.S. Handbook of Latin American Studies. In 1982 we met in Beijing-he was one of the translators to Chinese of my book Cuba in the 1970s-but his help was not acknowledged (as then was considered vanity). Things have changed for good, and now both the names and biographies of the translators to Spanish of Mao's book are included.

The preface to the book is written by a former CASS vice president and the Cuban ambassador to the People's Republic of China. Twelve chapters deal with the history of Cuban socialism, the Communist Party, the political system, the armed forces, the economy (1509-2004), education, health care, religion, foreign affairs, Chinese relations with Cuba, and Mao's reasons "of the vitality of Cuban socialism." For Chinese readers, Mao's desire to provide a comprehensive Cuban panorama forces brief treatment in quite complex themes. The author mainly relies on Cuban and Western sources, and only a dozen Chinese books on Cuba or Latin America are in the bibliography, an indicator of the scarcity of Cuban scholarship in the PRC and the rarity of this book.1

Lack of space forces a focus on China-Cuba relations that starts in 1847 when culies (coolies) arrived in Havana and later the Chinese participation in the War of Independence. The author subsequently deals with Mao Zedong's endorsement of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel's regional pioneering break in relations with Taiwan and establishment of relations with the PRC, and the latter moral support of Cuba in the United Nations and against the United States. Of particular importance are the conflict in 1964, when the Cuban government asked the Beijing ambassador to stop distributing propaganda (in Cuba's armed forces), Fidel's criticism of China in 1966 on trade agreements, Beijing's answer that deteriorated the bilateral relations, and the 1970s freeze given the conflict with the Soviet Union. (In the ideological struggle for the international socialist movement that Mao analyzes, he fails to specify that China accused the Soviet Union of being a second, "social" imperialist power and that Cuba sided with the Soviets.) In 1984 both countries signed an exchange of experts, and Flavio Bravo, president of Cuba's National Assembly, traveled to China, the first Cuban high official to visit that country in twenty years. In 1989 there was a swap of visits by the chancellors of both countries. The collapse of the socialist bloc in 1990 provoked a grave socioeconomic crisis in Cuba, including severe oil scarcity, which virtually paralyzed transportation: China sent bikes and a bicycle factory. President Jiang Zemin visited Cuba in 1993 at the worst point in the crisis, then Fidel traveled to China in 1995 and Raúl Castro in 1997. …

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