BEIJING – The President of China arrived at the Cuban Embassy in Beijing to sign a condolence book on the death of the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said at a press conference on Tuesday.
In his message, Xi conveyed his deepest condolences over the death of Castro, whom he called a great leader of the Cuban people and a great friend of China.
“Comrade Fidel Castro is the architect of Cuban socialism that left a prominent mark in the cause of national liberation of Cuba,” Xi wrote.
It is rare for Chinese leaders to visit embassies of other countries in Beijing for such tributes, and the last time it happened was when President Hu Jintao visited the North Korean legation in Beijing after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2011.
Xi had said Tuesday he wanted to visit the Cuban embassy to demonstrate China’s support for the Cubans and expressed confidence that under the leadership of President Raul Castro (Fidel’s brother) the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuban people will continue to prosper.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang reported Tuesday that Chinese Vice President, Li Yuanchao, will travel to Cuba to attend Castro’s funeral on Sunday, as a “Special Envoy” of Xi.
Under Xi’s leadership, the Chinese government has maintained frequent contacts with Cuban leaders, the last being in September, when Prime Minister Li Keqiang traveled to Havana.
However, bilateral relations have not always been smooth with Castro openly criticizing Mao Zedong and both countries taking different positions during the Cold War.
Ties began strengthening again from the 90s, and China is currently Cuba’s second largest trading partner (after Venezuela).