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Cuban Inspiration
Text by Chu Jiwang

 

May 3, 2016, Havana, Cuba: Chanel presents its first fashion show in Cuba with an exclusive line for early spring. Xinhua

I took a five-hour flight between Peru and Havana, Cuba to accomplish my long-held dream of visiting the famous Caribbean socialist country.

When I was young, I read much about Cuba, one of the most important countries in the socialist bloc, and learned about related iconic figures such as Fidel Castro as well as the country’s celebrated candy and cigars.

Time changes everything. China has emerged as the second-largest economy on the planet, thanks to the implementation of reform and opening-up policies. Cuba may be fading in the memories of modern Chinese citizens, but its history is engraved in the minds of the older generation.

Over the years, my curiosity about Cuba never waned. Finally, I got the chance to set foot on its soil and see its old Spanish houses with wooden windows and doors, some of which were empty. The vintage cars took me back to the last century; only dwellings in downtown areas were refurbished. The whole city seemed worn down. The country, embraced by the sea, exceeded my every expectation.

I learned from our tour guide that in Cuba, all land and real estate belong to the state. Individuals can only own one house; buying a second would be extremely expensive because of taxes.

Sun is a handsome young man from China who married a local girl. He got a green card and owns a house after inheriting another from his in-laws when they passed away. To minimize taxes, he moved to a bigger house after selling the inheritance.

Despite the beautiful coastal landscape and pleasant climate, Havana’s tourism sector remains relatively undeveloped. Highrises are few and far between. Considering the island’s breathtaking natural scenery, the lack of facilities seemed like a waste. Cuba would have been highly developed by now had the government opened its door wider to the outside world and sought foreign investment. From another perspective, however, the natural beauty has remained pure, which makes the beach more charming.

On November 21, 2016, the Cuban government sponsored an investment seminar for Chinese entrepreneurs, and I was lucky enough to attend. Upon learning that I was from Ningbo, one particular official showed great interest in me. “I’ve been there!” he smiled. “We should meet up next time.” I was happy to introduce him to the idea of our country’s Belt and Road initiative and expressed my excitement in regard to the prospect of future cooperation.

On policies regarding land and real estate, they stressed that such projects would require funds from both sides for joint development. Conservative policies could be what is slowing economic development in Cuba, in my opinion.

Shortly after leaving, we heard the news that Fidel Castro had passed away. Is a new chapter about to unfold?

 

Chu Jiwang is president and founder of the Ningbo Ruyi Joint Stock Co., Ltd., a major Chinese logistics equipment manufacturer. More than just an entrepreneur, Chu is a recipient of the China Charity Award, the top philanthropic honor in the country. In each issue, he shares his business insights and inspirations gained from his life experience.

 

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