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Chinese influence in Cuba looms ever larger amid strong trade ties


Chinese influence in Cuba looms ever larger amid strong trade ties

Chinese made busses in Cuba
Chinese made busses in Cuba
Photo: Reuters

Having hosted over 1,000 companies from 70 countries, the Havana International Fair closes today.

Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations in 2015, the US continues its embargo with Cuba; indeed, President Trump signalled a harder line on Havana in a key policy speech in June.

The decades-long embargo has led to general economic underdevelopment, leaving the door open for China to become a major player in the Caribbean. Just last year, Beijing became Cuba’s top economic partner, recording over $1 billion in bilateral trade.

This week, Chinese state media reported that Havana was seeking to join the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative to capitalise on easy financing for large pieces of infrastructure, such as the Mariel special development zone. The Cuban government hopes that Mariel, which sports “the most modern” shipping terminal in the region and tax incentives for foreign investors, will turn the island into a regional maritime hub.

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Beijing has shown its ability to capitalise on local ambitions for grand infrastructure projects by providing soft loans in return for preferential treatment. While China’s growing influence in Cuba will not go unnoticed in Washington, the continued embargo leaves Havana little alternative.

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