July 5, 2012 - 13:31 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Cuban President Raul Castro begins talks with China's leaders on Thursday, July 5, during which he is expected to win backing from his country's longtime ally in helping to implement historic economic reforms, according to AFP.
Castro will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Thursday afternoon, after which the two sides are scheduled to sign a series of agreements that analysts said may focus on trade and infrastructure.
He is then slated to meet China's two leaders-in-waiting, Xi Jinpingand Li Keqiang, on Friday, helping to deepen personal ties with the men widely expected to assume the Chinese presidency and premiership.
Castro's four-day visit to China, which began in low-key fashion Wednesday with no official meetings, follows a trip to Havana last year by Xi when the two sides signed 10 deals aimed at supporting Cuba's economic reforms.
The agreements included a new line of credit and financial aid to help modernize the Cuban public health system, official media in Havana reported at the time, although no figures were announced.
The countries' close relationship dates back to 1960, when Cuba became the first government to establish diplomatic ties with communist China.
China is Cuba's top trading partner after Venezuela, with bilateral trade worth $1.8 billion a year. China is also a vital source of credit for the cash-strapped communist island.