Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and Cuban President Raul Castro witness the signing of some 20 cooperative agreements in areas including economic technology, finance, production capacity, telecommunication, environment protection, and inspection and quarantine after their talks at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 24, 2016. (Photo： Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday concluded his three-day official visit to Cuba, further consolidating the comprehensive strategic partnership as the two countries inked more than 20 cooperative deals in a wide range of areas.[Special coverage]
This is the first official visit by a Chinese premier to the Caribbean country since Beijing and Havana forged diplomatic ties in 1960.
Li's visit came after his participation in the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and an official visit to Canada.
VISIT TO FIDEL CASTRO
Li visited Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro Sunday afternoon and the two exchanged views on bilateral ties, world peace, regional hotspot issues, food security and other issues of common concern.
Having conveyed the cordial greetings of Chinese leaders and the Chinese people, Li said China cherishes very much the traditional friendship between China and Cuba.
China is willing to cement political mutual trust and expand cooperation with Cuba so as to enhance the friendship between the two peoples, the premier said.
While noting that the world's political and economic landscape is currently experiencing complicated and profound adjustment, with old and new issues intertwined with each other and challenges emerging one after another, Li said, no matter how the international situations change, the China-Cuban relationship of comrade plus brother, featuring mutual respect, treating each other on an equal footing and pulling together, will not change.
Fidel Castro, who just celebrated the 90th birthday in August, said he is pleased to see the remarkable achievements China has scored in the past five decades, and expressed admiration to the Chinese people for their diligence and unyielding spirit.
Describing the current world situation as complex and ever changing, Castro said Cuba would like to safeguard world peace and increase cooperation and communication with China.
Fidel Castro visited China twice in 1995 and 2003 respectively. Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited the Cuban revolutionary leader during his visit to Cuba in 2014.
ENHANCED PRAGMATIC COOPERATION
During the visit, China and Cuba signed more than 20 cooperative agreements in areas including economic technology, finance, production capacity, telecommunications, environment protection, new energy and inspection and quarantine, with the witness of Li and Cuban President Raul Castro.
In the talks with Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution, Li said China has firmly adhered to the policy of China-Cuba friendship, supported Cuba in following a socialist path and promoted bilateral pragmatic cooperation.
As both countries are facing the urgent task of development, China stands ready to focus on economic development when cooperated with Cuba, support Cuba's industrialization process and conduct cooperation on infrastructure construction and industrial equipment production, Li said.
The Chinese premier also called on the two countries to expand trade and investment cooperation, share development experience and carry out more frequent people-to-people exchanges.
Raul Castro, President of the Cuban Council of State and Council of Ministers, said Cuba agrees with China on measures to develop bilateral ties and is willing to learn from China's development experience.
Cuba looks forward to increasing high-level exchanges with China, and expanding down-to-earth cooperation with China, he said.
China is Cuba's second-largest trading partner while Cuba is China's biggest trade partner in the Caribbean region.
Beijing's participation in the development of multiple sectors of the economy has been vital to Havana's push to modernize the country's socialist model.
Commercial exchanges between the two countries have grown consistently, with bilateral trade reaching some 2.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 and further expanding in 2016.
Bilateral trade and economy has been shifting from simple goods trade to cooperation covering areas of agriculture, production capacity, equipment production, health care, tourism and research and development.
During his visit, the premier also got on a Chinese-made Yutong Bus run by a local tourist company for a talk with the driver about the performance of the vehicle.
Yutong, a leading bus-maker in China, has occupied over 90 percent of the Caribbean country's coach market since it entered the island in 2005. Currently there are more than 5,000 Yutong buses in Cuba with many uses.
Li encouraged the company to radiate more countries in Caribbean and Latin America and expand cooperation with local companies in these countries.
Also on Sunday, a conference of Chinese and Cuban entrepreneurs was held in Havana with the participation of more than 200 businessmen from both countries in areas of telecommunication, finance, agriculture and others.
MORE PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGES
Besides economic cooperation, both leaders called for more frequent cultural and people-to-people exchanges in the future.
Li and his wife Cheng Hong, accompanied by Cuban leaders and senior officials, watched a performance entitled Havana Night at the Grand Theater of Havana on Sunday night. Artists from both countries gave each other's most unique and splendid performances to an audience of more than 1,000.
Both leaders agreed that such activities would help boost cultural exchanges and the friendship between the two peoples.
The performance was one of the featured shows within the Year of China-Latin America Cultural Exchange which fell in 2016.
People-to-people exchanges between the two countries have been in the interest of both peoples, and educational cooperation has been on the rise, said Chinese ambassador to Cuba Zhang Tuo.
In recent years, thousands of Chinese students have received scholarships from the Cuban government and have studied there the Spanish language, medicine, tourism, education and so on, according to Zhang. Meanwhile, the number of overseas Chinese students in Cuba at their own expense has also increased.
Cuba has become an important base for Spanish-language human resources training for China, while more and more Cuban people are becoming interested in learning the Chinese language, he said.