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Premier Li meets Raul Castro in Havana

Updated: Sep 25,2016 4:38 PM

To begin in Cuba where Premier Li Keqiang has met with Cuban President Raul Castro in the country’s capital Havana. The visit is the final part of Premier Li’s three-nation tour, following visits to the United Nations in New York and then Canada. Premier Li said the trip is aimed at strengthening high-level exchanges and intensifying political trust between the countries. China is Cuba’s second-largest trading partner only after Venezuela.

Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Havana airport on Sept 24.

As the only communist country in the Western hemisphere, Cuba has long enjoyed strong ideological as well as commercial ties with China.

President Xi Jinping came here in 2014, while Cuba’s President Raul Castro and the island’s former leader, Fidel Castro, have both made state visits to Beijing.

Cuba may have restored diplomatic relations with its old enemy the United States, but its relationship with China remains as committed as ever.

“The Cuban government has defined China as its most important strategic partner of Cuba. And it has to do not only with the economics of the relationship, the economic relationship is very intense, but because the political aspect of the relationship is very important. I think you have to bear in mind that these are the leaderships of two revolutionary governments: governments that overthrew a capitalistic system and imposed a new system,” said International affairs analyst Gcarlos Alzugaray.

Economically, though, they have grown apart. Cuba is only now starting on the road towards market reforms.

But there is a growing interest in China about business opportunities here, and earlier this year saw the first direct flights from Beijing to Havana, via Canada.

China is Cuba’s main supplier of manufactured goods, from cars and buses to household electrical appliances.

Telecommunications is another key area of cooperation. The Chinese multinational Huawei is helping build Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the island and is also exporting its cellphones here,

And in a country where until now the only billboards were political, Huawei has become the first company allowed to openly advertise its products, albeit, only outside the international airport.