By Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to Cuba will help boost economic cooperation between Havana and Beijing, and promote the Cuba-China comprehensive strategic partnership, said a renowned Cuban expert.
"China is a strategic partner for Cuba," Ruben Zardoya, former rector of the University of Havana and expert on China issues, told Xinhua, adding that Li's visit "will be very important for our country and will help strengthen ties."
Economic relations between the two countries are in "crescendo" and Chinese investment in Cuba is "tangible," Zardoya said.
"There are protocols, agreements and accords of all kinds between the two countries to promote investment, banking development, transport, industry, defence, civil aviation, renewable energy, agriculture and biotechnology, among other areas," he said.
Li will arrive in Cuba following his participation in the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and an official visit to Canada.
China is Cuba's second-largest trade partner and 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.
"Economic relations with China help Cuba obtain financial benefits and credits, and assimilate new modern technologies and the know-how for numerous industries from a very reliable partner," Zardoya said.
Cuba's tourism industry has witnessed increasing bilateral cooperation, not only because a growing number of Chinese visitors are traveling to the island country each year, but also because of Chinese investment in infrastructure development.
"Cuba has announced Chinese investment in the tourism sector with the construction of two luxury hotels in the outskirts of the capital," said Zardoya.
Cuba is also looking to increase its exports to China, particularly in the health sector.
"Biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry are important areas for cooperation due to the high scientific level of Cuban professionals and products the country manufactures, such as vaccines and innovative drugs against cancer and other diseases," he said.
Cuba began to modernize its socialist system about six years ago in order to trim the bloated public sector and increase productivity.
Cuban President Raul Castro approved a plan for 300 economic reforms in 2011 similar to the Chinese economic model, saying the experience of other socialist countries would be incorporated into the Cuban model.
"We must learn from their best practices. Chinese experience has been extraordinary and is an indisputable source of inspiration for Cuba," said Zardoya.
With "solid" political relations and many common grounds on global matters, the two countries can easily focus on boosting economic cooperation, he said.
"Havana and Beijing have common values such as the right of nations to self-determination, respect for sovereignty, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, and peace and stability as a condition for economic development," he said.
Strong ties with Cuba help bolster China's presence and enhance its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, which have grown substantially in the last few years, he added.
Li's trip to Havana will be the first official visit to Cuba by a Chinese premier since the two countries established diplomatic ties 56 years ago.
Li will be meeting with Raul Castro over strengthening China-Cuba cooperation and friendship, and preside over the signing of cooperation agreements in the fields of technology, renewable energy, industry and environmental protection.