In a major symbolic gesture of support, Chinese President Hu Jintao
pledged to support Cuba on its path of economic reform.
China is Cuba's second-largest economic partner and has provided
billions of dollars in low-interest loans.
In a message to former President Fidel Castro — published by Cuba's
official media on Thursday — Hu expressed his satisfaction about the
311-point reform package the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba
approved this week. The reforms seek to cut state activity back to
strategic economic sectors, open a real estate market, open space for
small business and private cooperatives in agriculture, services and
retail, and phase out subsidies for food and goods of daily use.
The reforms are being implemented on the background of austerity,
President Raúl Castro warned during the Congress. Rising oil and food
prices are causing Cuba to spend $800 million more this year than
budgeted, while the country has little access to international credit.
The cabinet is meeting this week to adjust the plan and budget that were
passed in December.
"Both China and Cuba currently are in a crucial stage of development,"
Hu said in his message. "We will support Cuba to explore the path of
Socialist development that corresponds to its national reality. We will
continue to provide help to socio-economic development … within our means."