When Old Red Friends Meet

It's always interesting when China meets with the two Communist strongholds that represent the old order of things, Cuba and North Korea. These sort of meetings attract attention not only among China hands, but watchers of global politics in general as comparisons between the progress of "Communist" China and Communist North Korea/Cuba can't be helped.

Currently, Hu Jintao is on a state visit to Cuba to meet with the island's new head, Raul Castro. Classic lines like "China adopted market economics long ago while Cuba still has a Soviet-style command system where more than 90 percent of the economy is in state hands" can't be avoided by reporters. While China will openly acknowledge the "strategic" relationship between the two countries, in reality, it always feels like China is playing the role of the big brother who simply can't bring himself to cut his younger, hard up, loser brother off due to the strength of familial ties.

While I am optimistic enough to believe that more and more university student exchanges between the US and China will promote understanding, I'm not one to believe that China will serve as a model for reforms in these other countries. China would be able to help, of course, especially in the Cuban situation as there are similar advantages (ie a large population of often highly educated, or at the very least rich, emigres living in the US who would love to help Cuba out or even return just as soon as the government changes), yet it would mean another competitor and potentially the loss of a market as China would likely have to go head-to-head against the US.

Those in China are sure to "enjoy" a night or two with lots of news images of Hu shaking hands with Cuban leaders, embassy meetings, etc, but whether anything really comes from this is yet to be seen. At the same time, its hard not to pay attention when these nations meet.

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