Beijing – Talks here Thursday between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Cuba's Raúl Castro ended with the signing of eight accords, including one on a loan to finance improvements to health infrastructure on the Caribbean island.
The loan, the amount of which was not made public, was signed by the general director of the National Bank of Cuba, Juliana Maritza Martínez, and China Development Bank chief Chen Yuan after the meeting the two leaders held in the Great Hall of the People.
In addition, Cuban Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas and Chinese Trade Minister Chen Deming signed two economic and technical cooperation agreements that include donations and interest-free loans, but the amounts covered in these accords were not made public either.
"For us it is a matter of great pride to maintain relations with all the institutions of the People's Republic of China and with its people," said Castro, whose Asia tour - which also includes a visit to Vietnam - seeks to garner support for his economic reform process from other communist regimes who began such a process years ago.
Hu said at the beginning of his meeting with Castro that since Raúl formally succeeded ailing older brother Fidel as president in 2008 "the traditional friendship between China and Cuba has developed greatly."
"We're certain that this visit will increase cooperation on the highest levels," said the Chinese president, who recalled that he had visited Cuba on three occasions.
Before the meeting with Hu, Castro held a more relaxed meeting with parliament speaker Wu Bangguo, who alluded to the fact that the Cuban leader had come to China to meet with both the top current leadership in Beijing as well as with the new leaders who will assume power in the coming months.
Castro on Friday will hold meetings with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and with the two men tapped to assume the presidency and the premiership, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, respectively, in 2013.
This is Raúl Castro's first visit to China as Cuba's head of state, although he traveled to the Asian giant in 1997 and 2005 to examine the "Chinese experiment" on economic reform without a political opening, and now he is aiming to obtain Beijing's support for the changes he is attempting to carry out in Cuba.
Castro has initiated an economic opening on the communist island that recalls the first years of the Chinese reform, including the reduction of bloated state payrolls and fewer restrictions on private initiative.