Cuba and China have formed a post-Cold War alliance: Cuba supports Chinese interests in Latin America to cover its economic shortfall, while satisfying Beijing’s strategic needs for military intelligence and biotechnology, the report Security Implications of the China-Cuba Alliance of think tank Global Americans indicates.
“Cuba depends on foreign assistance and rents its geographic location and territory to threaten the United States and the Panama Canal, a vital shipping lane on the continent,” Euclides Tapia, professor of International Relations at the University of Panama, told Diálogo on August 30.
Havana, as a “poor investment and trade partner,” has not been able to pay millions in loans to China and needs humanitarian support. However, according to the July 28 report, it facilitates the advance of the Chinese regime’s economic, political, and geostrategic offensive in the region.
Under Xi Jinping’s administration, China has become a main trading partner of South America. It secures markets and access to strategic raw materials, controls key infrastructure projects, and spreads propaganda in the region, the report says.
“This has all accelerated risks for malign commercial activities, political and economic coercion, as well as asymmetric attacks on infrastructure,” Global Americans said. “Furthermore, it has boosted China’s civilian-military fusion strategy, which seeks to make its military the most advanced in the world.”
Senior Chinese officials visited Cuba 22 times since 1993, while Cuban leaders traveled to the Asian nation 25 times since 1995. During a visit in 2014, Xi Jinping stressed: “Our countries are advancing together in the construction of our own socialism and we provide support on vital issues,” international current affairs magazine The Diplomat reported.
The magazine also indicated that Beijing is aware of Havana’s geostrategic relevance. Given its location in the Caribbean, the island has the ability to influence maritime access to the southeastern United States, which comprises essential routes to key ports such as Miami, New Orleans, and Houston. “China seeks access to U.S. military and economic strength,” Tapia said.
By supporting Cuba economically, China acts as an indirect catalyst for regional authoritarianism by providing resources to governments that strengthen their control, modify constitutions, limit private property, weaken democratic institutions, and repress domestic dissent, The Diplomat reported. “Beijing’s partners are alike — dictatorships. Cuba is economically bankrupt,” Tapia added.
China built a global network of ports linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including 40 ports in Latin America. While they are presented to be commercial in nature, it has been pointed out that these ports could become military bases for the Chinese Navy in the future, Argentine daily El Cronista reported.
Chinese influence in the island nation goes even further. In June, according to CNN, Havana and Beijing reached a deal, in exchange for financial support, for the establishment of a base with electronic surveillance equipment to spy. China has had military bases and intelligence facilities in Cuba since 2019 and continues to expand its global intelligence network.
Think tank a Center for a Secure Free Society highlighted that Chinese-owned ports in Latin America give China strategic locations in the Western Hemisphere from Peru to Mexico, including Santiago de Cuba, along with 11 satellite earth stations in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela.
In April, Cuba and China also agreed to cooperate on cybersecurity to promote “development and well-being,” Cuban independent technology media outlet YucaByte reported. The Chinese government’s approach to the internet is notable for its control and censorship, in contrast to other countries, YucaByte said.
The Cuban regime of Miguel Díaz-Canel found in Huawei an ally to block rebel independent media websites on the island, the media outlet added. The Cuba regime uses the telecommunications infrastructure created by the Chinese firm to exercise total control, following the model of the CCP.
Also with Chinese support, Cuba strategically monitors Venezuela and expands regional digital authoritarianism, while its army of trolls influence cyberspace. Their information warfare has even confused air traffic controllers in New York and jammed pro-democracy broadcast to Iran, Global Americans noted.
The United States and Europe have voiced concerns with Huawei and ZTE equipment due to security risks and fear that China uses it for espionage, AFP reported.
“Although it benefits China, this relationship does not generate economic growth or development in any Cuban sector. Possible Chinese investment plans, similar to those implemented in other Latin American nations for large-scale infrastructure, cannot be ruled out,” Tapia concluded. “Cuba is only fed with the Chinese trinkets that come to the island.”