Cuba-China: Different Countries, Same Rhetoric

By Erasmo Calzadilla

The Cuban and Chinese flags.  Photo: Caridad
The Cuban and Chinese flags. Photo: Caridad

It’s a common belief on this side of the planet that if you were to dig a hole deep enough, you’d come up perhaps in the backyard of a house or the grounds of a temple, or in some stadium in China.

In a simplistic way, we might expect China to be our geographical antipode and would also be so in terms of political questions.

However, reading an interview in Granma newspaper with the Asian giant’s ambassador titled: “China: The Flags of Socialism Held High,” published on September 30, I found the distance between them and us to be less than what one might have thought.

Exactly as we’re used to hearing under tropical socialism, the diplomat recounted how China’s staggering progress would not have been achieved without “the wise command of the Communist Party.”

I don’t know much about this, but it sounds to me like they too enjoy an article in their constitution specifying the Party as the force that governs, and -like with our Party- those who are members fulfill this task wisely, according to judgments they make of their own work.

The ambassador continued by saying that so much development would not have been possible “without the conscious, enthusiast and resolved support of the Chinese people.”

Except for being able to talk about development, all of the rest sounded just the same as here.

Nor do they apparently lack perennial enemies: those foes of socialism, people against China, the plotters, saboteurs, “subverters of the ideology” (here we just call them diversionists, it’s shorter).

“But the people, also under the direction of the Communist Party, are convinced that those obstacles will disappear,” Zhao stressed.

Then, referring to the most recent plenary session of the Central Committee of the Chinese Party, he pointed out that “the main issue was the building of the organization, and how to govern, how to lead for the benefit of people.”  That is also the central concern of our Communist Party, according to the speeches of its ideologists in each one of its plenary sessions.

Notwithstanding, it’s also necessary to point out that the rhetoric of the Chinese leaders is not identical to their Cuban counterparts on all points.  The ambassador made mention in several paragraphs of the “liberalization of the productive forces” that has led them along the path to the development that they have just begun to reach.

I believe that our leaders are a little clearer that the traditional notion of “development” is a western formula that is alienating and inhuman, and that following it -if it were pursued by all countries- would speed up the destruction of the planet, which we are now beginning to see.

This reminded me of the words of the president of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, when he spoke to a group of computer science students a couple years ago. When one student asked him why Cubans weren’t allowed to travel independently outside the country, he explained that if we all traveled by plane this would lead to congestion in the sky and all types of airplane crashes.

With so much similarity between Cuba and China, a similar question occurred to me: Can they travel independently beyond their walls?

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

3 thoughts on “Cuba-China: Different Countries, Same Rhetoric

  • Well, two people already commented that the Chinese (Peoples Republic) can travel abroad “freely” (if they can get a visa). According to World Tourism Organization, in 2008, some 47million Chinese travel abroad,I quote: “The meteoric growth in China’s outbound tourism has been particularly remarkable since the year 2000 to achieve an annual average growth of 22%. This record bolsters UNWTO’s prediction in 1995 that by 2020 China will generate 100 million outbound tourists and become the 4th largest market in the world”. And what’s remarkable is that there will be around 1 million Chinese tourists going to Taiwan (sort of like Cubans visiting Florida).
    Now that we have established that the Chinese can travel “independently beyond their walls”, I have question for the author: How much do you know China? What do you think these Chinese tourists will find when they travel abroad? Would it be a surprise to you that most Chinese travellers think Taiwan is a “run-down”? I quote from an article from Taiwan: “When Xiamen businessman Ying Jiming set foot in Taipei last Friday (4 July), he expected a modern capital with wide boulevards and glitzy skyscrapers….But right off the plane, he found himself walking along a non-airconditioned pathway to the spartan arrival hall of the downtown Songshan Airport. …The city’s mishmash of tatty shophouses and high-rise buildings also left him less than impressed, he told The Straits Times two days into his Taiwan tour.
    “I thought Taipei should be comparable to, if not more developed than, Beijing and Shanghai,” said the 44-year-old, who sported a pair of Gucci shades…The disappointment expressed by Ying, one of 760 mainlanders on the historic inaugural cross-strait tour in Taiwan, might have been shared by a few of his fellow tourists.”

    Anyway, do you care to comment?

  • Dear Erasmo,
    I can attest that a great number of Chinese from the People’s Republic are travelling abroad. Many stayed at the hotel in Yellowstone National Park where I worked this summer. A younger group of Chinese, mostly students, worked in the restaurants and employee dining room at our hotel. During the high season (June, July and August) a great number of our guests, perhaps even a majority, were foreigners: Chinese, French, German, English, Swiss, etc. Most of my compatriots could only afford to stay at the campground, below, At least they were allowed–for $3.25 plus a $1.00 extra for a towel– to take hot showers at the hotel’s public bathroom facilities, but most elected, instead, to bathe at a nearby natural thermal hot spring, “the Boiling River!,” So not only are the new “Red Bourgeoisie” vacationing in America, but also the corporation that has the hotel consession in Yellowstone has elected to “outsource” many of its service jobs to foreign nationals.

  • Erasmo, in answer to your question, and based on information I found on a number of independent websites, China does still require its citizens to obtain an exit visa to leave its territory. However, in recent years, exit visas are approved rather routinely. One indicator of this relaxed attitude is the large number of Chinese students who attend universities in foreign countries and return to China after graduation.

    More important, however, is that China has become a capitalist country in all but name. While its citizens are no doubt better off economically, the Communist Party has shown a complete unwillingness to relax its monopoly on political power, or to provide basic civil liberties to its citizens in any area other than making money.

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