Chinese foreign investment is often considered nonideological: Dictatorship or democracy, model state or pariah -- if a country has natural resources, China is an eager investor. In Latin America the characterization rings true, as China has curried favor with left-leaning governments -- in Venezuela and Ecuador -- and right-leaning governments -- in Chile and Colombia -- alike.
China's relations with Cuba are a case in point, if a counterintuitive one. On a three-day visit to the island this week, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Cuban President Raúl Castro signed 10 accords and began talks on a five-year plan for greater economic cooperation. But while one might think the People's Republic would find a kindred ally in communist Cuba, decades of frosty relations have only recently begun to thaw.
Fidel Castro's Cuba became the first country in Latin America to recognize the People's Republic in 1960, but when the communist world's schism erupted between Beijing and Moscow, Havana embraced Moscow. China subsequently cut rice shipments to the island in 1966, a move Fidel called "economic aggression." Several years later, China denounced Cuban involvement in Angola. A combination of hard-line personalities and the Sino-Soviet split continued to keep China and Cuba from establishing close ties until after 1991.