China’s state-run Global Times newspaper published a story Tuesday recommending that the communist regime of Cuba learn from China’s “reform and opening-up” economic strategy, which saw Beijing allowing trusted Communist Party members to run corporations to give the appearance of private enterprise.
For Cuba’s economy to succeed, the Times suggests, it must embrace the Chinese model. The article is quick to argue, however, that “China doesn’t expect to export its model. Beijing has never believed that one size fits all.”
The Cuban economy post-Revolution is a parasitic communist model, meaning it relies on either the charity of a much larger ally or the colonization of a smaller one to survive. During most of its existence, Cuba subsisted off of Soviet largesse, traded for access to the Caribbean region during the Cold War. The Cuban economy entered a downward spiral following the collapse of the Soviet Union, only reviving through a budding friendship with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez that began in the late 1990s and resulted in Havana relying on a steady stream of free Venezuelan oil. Estimates suggest that Cuban has deployed up to 100,000 government agents to run the Venezuelan regime, effectively colonizing the country.
Cuba also increasingly relies on China, with whom it has enjoyed friendly relations since the Revolution. Beijing now suggests that, with Venezuela’s economy in freefall, Cuba must turn to false capitalism – the Chinese “reform and opening-up” model – to keep its oligarchy wealthy.
“When it comes to China’s experience or the Chinese model, one can certainly not neglect the Chinese system,” the Global Times asserts, adding that “the crucial part of the Chinese experience is to understand oneself correctly, objectively and make a development strategy based on such recognition. The core is to ensure economic reforms and opening-up to the world are proceeding at the same time.”
The article applauds Cuba for its rejection of international human rights norms, but adds that this is not enough to sustain a prosperous economy. “[I]n this era filled with liberalism and individualism, the Cuban people are still holding onto a belief in social equality and socialism,” the article notes. “After 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has developed quite a few experiences that are worth learning.”
The column then provides examples of other nations mimicking the Chinese model. “For instance,” it details, “Vietnam is privatizing state-owned enterprises, helping medium and small enterprises boost their competitiveness in the global value chains. African nations and Pakistan are discussing how to learn from Beijing about reducing poverty.”
“Cuba is adjusting amid difficult circumstances. It is learning from China amid the hard reality while attempting not to break its pursuit of social equality. This is worth encouraging,” it continues.
The piece also condemns Western countries for criticizing China’s consistently negative human rights record and using programs like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a plan to ensure China controls all the world’s major transportation infrastructure – to ensnare developing countries in debt traps. “The West consistently misleads developing nations in their choice of development path,” the Times laments.
China has long kept its eye on expanding its presence in Cuba, where the communist regime requires little convincing to function like the Chinese model. Like China, the Cuban Communist Party controls the government – not its executive or legislature – by the constitution. Both countries have three executive leadership roles in place – president, commander-in-chief, and head of the Communist Party, with president being the weakest. In China, Xi Jinping holds all three positions. In Cuba, Raúl Castro controls two, while Miguel Díaz-Canel holds the title of president. The president answers to the head of the Communist Party when they are not the same person.
In January, shortly before Díaz-Canel assumed the presidency, the Chinese state outlet Xinhua declared China a “key partner” in Cuba’s economic development and “a key driver of tourism development in the Caribbean island nation.” At the time, China had invested over $700 million in Cuba’s tourism industry alone; China became Cuba’s largest trading partner in October 2017.
Cooperation had begun long before that, however. In 2015, Cuba allowed China to dock U.S. Navy ships in its ports to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries 55 years prior. Cuba also routinely allows Chinese civilians ships to dock in its ports to pick up or deliver cargo, triggering outrage on the part of the legitimate owners of those docks, American citizens who the Castro regime used force to steal the docks from.
Díaz-Canel has made expanding economic ties with China a priority since becoming president, at the orders of the younger Castro dictator. Díaz-Canel visited Beijing in November and promised to bring the BRI to Cuba, despite its nominal goal of reconstructing the ancient Silk Road from Beijing to Lisbon.
“As socialist countries, China and Cuba are good friends, comrades, and brothers,” Xi Jinping reportedly told Díaz-Canel at their Beijing meeting. “Chinese people will never forget that Cuba, led by Comrade Fidel Castro, was the first nation in the western hemisphere to forge diplomatic ties with China 58 years ago.”