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The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"This is the part of the visit the Chinese President will be looking forward to"
 real 56k

Friday, 13 April, 2001, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
China to lend Cuba $400m
China's President Jiang Zemin and Cuban President Fidel Castro
China and Cuba share common interests - and opponents
Chinese President Jiang Zemin has pledged nearly $400m in loans to Cuba - and serenaded President Fidel Castro with Chinese opera and a Spanish ballad.

China will lend Havana money to modernise telecommunications, build a hotel and buy Chinese-made television sets, it was announced during President Jiang's state visit to Cuba.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, for his part, promised Havana's support for Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

And representatives of both countries sniped at the United States, with references to the stand-off over a US spy plane that was forced to land in China on 1 April.

Common interests

The two countries have strong commercial ties, as well as a common interest in heading off expected condemnation of their human rights records at the United Nations.

Their human rights policies are bankrupt
in the eyes of the rest
of the world

Human Rights Watch
The UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva is due to vote on the human-rights records of China, Cuba and other countries within days.

The campaign group Human Rights Watch used the visit to criticise both countries' records.

"The leaders of both countries have something in common that goes beyond trade and economic interests. Their human-rights policies are bankrupt in the eyes of the rest of the world", the group said in a statement earlier this week.

State dinner

The Cuban leader hosted a dinner for President Jiang on Thursday night, at which the Chinese leader sang Chinese, Italian and Spanish songs, according to a Chinese delegation source.

"The president enjoys singing", the source told the Reuters news agency.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and delegation in front of a giant portrait of Che Guevara
The Chinese attended a ceremony at Revolution Palace
Mr Jiang is travelling with a high-level delegation which signed a number of economic and friendship accords.

But another significant aspect of the visit will be discussions on their respective relations with the United States.

Havana unreservedly supported Beijing during the standoff over the fate of the US spy plane crew.

Increased trade

President Jiang was last in Cuba in 1993, when Mr Castro's government had recently lost the support of the Soviet Union and its economy was on the verge of collapse.

Since that time, total trade between the two countries has risen from $270m to almost $500m in 1999.

Chinese-made bicycles are ubiquitous in Cuba, and Chinese businesses have invested in Cuba's fishing, agriculture, food and textile industries.

As part of his tour, President Jiang has already been to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. He continues on to Venezuela on 15 April.

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