I have been a staunch critic of the US sanctions against Cuba, which are motivated more by resentment towards Cuba's defiance of its dictates than by real foreign policy considerations. True, during the Cold War, Cuba served as a bridgehead for the spread of communism throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. But that paradigm disappeared more than 30 years ago with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the decline of communism.
Today, only five communist countries remain standing. Since that time, the US and other Western powers have accommodated and done considerable business with communist countries like Laos and Vietnam — not to mention China. Why then the animus toward Cuba?
I have also been a staunch defender of China's global outreach and, in particular, its Belt and Road Initiative which has resulted in significant investment in infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing projects in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. But the US sees China not as a competitor but a global threat and has conscripted other Western powers to join in a pushback against it.
China's meteoric rise as a global economic superpower came about as a result of the economic reforms started by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, the origin of which owes as much to Zhao Ziyang, the real visionary and architect, who later fell from grace and spent the rest of his life under house arrest because of what was considered to be his sympathetic attitude toward the Tiananmen Square protestors.
The US contends that much of China's economic success is due to its theft of American technology. It is difficult to eat your cake and have it. Over the last 30 years, hundreds of American companies, including most of its global retail brands, have established manufacturing plants in China to take advantage of its cheaper costs of production. In those circumstances, whatever may be the strict legal complexities, it is virtually impossible to prevent the transfer of technology.
China's manufactured products have penetrated markets all over the world, not only because of their price advantage, but also because of the market-intelligent approach that drives their production. America will come up with a product it thinks you will like and then put marketing muscle behind it to persuade you to buy it. In China they approach it differently. They carefully find out what you want and then go about manufacturing it.
When America makes a machine or appliance, a few obvious parts may be replaceable, but often when it goes bad you have to throw it away and purchase a new one. In China, they take apart that same machine, identify the dozens and perhaps hundreds of parts in it, and then manufacture and market them. Often, when you have a machine that needs a particular part, don't waste your time calling the manufacturer. Go on eBay, or, better yet, AliExpress and you'll find it — made in China.
Cuba is a different story. For more than 60 years it has had to live with the harsh embargo imposed by the US. Immediately after the Cuban Revolution — which was and still remains hugely popular with most of the Cuban people — the US State Department produced a memorandum which stated: “The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support (for the revolution) is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” It recommended a policy that would be “adroit and as inconspicuous as possible while aiming to deny money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the Government”.
The strategy has not worked. Many countries would have been brought to their knees. Cuba has suffered, but it has never been broken — largely because the fundamental purpose and objective of the revolution have not been corrupted. It has not only survived, but, in the process, has achieved a level of success in education, health care, science, and technology that is the envy of many free and democratic countries.
It is in the area of human rights that both China and Cuba have deprived themselves of much of the respect that the international community would be happy to bestow. Respect for human rights is not entirely incompatible with communism. 'One man, one vote' and freedom of expression and association will not fit in a communist framework, but equality, the right to life and liberty, the guarantee against inhumane and unjust treatment, and the entitlement to a fair judicial process are not antithetical to communism.
The treatment of the Uyghurs in China, millions of whom have been held in what are euphemistically called vocational education and training centres, is unacceptable. So, too, is the ever-so-frequent mysterious disappearance of people who find themselves at odds with the Government. The heavy prison sentences, some as much as 15 years, imposed on individuals who are accused of participating in last year's street protests in Cuba cannot be seen as just and appropriate.
Repression may well be an effective although not the only means of preserving a communist form of government, but it will not command international acceptance or respect.
Bruce Golding served as Jamaica's eighth prime minister from September 11, 2007 to October 23, 2011.