China Tells U.S. 'Enough with Sanctions!' and Pledges to Support Cuba

China has called on the United States to cease its decades-long campaign of sanctions against Cuba and has pledged support for the fellow Communist state under new pressure from President Joe Biden's administration.

The State Department announced new rounds of sanctions late last month against the leadership of Cuban military, security forces, and, most recently, police in response to their crackdown against rare protests that erupted earlier in July over the government's COVID-19 response and restrictions on civil liberties.

The move was met with criticism in Beijing, which has accused Washington of meddling in Havana's affairs.

"China firmly opposes any move to arbitrarily impose unilateral sanctions and interfere in other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of so-called 'freedom,' 'human rights' and 'democracy,'" a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

"The recent US sanctions against Cuban institutions and officials severely violate the basic norms governing international relations and once again demonstrate to the world the typical US-style double standard and bullyism," the spokesperson added.

Cuba has been subject to a U.S. trade embargo, one of the longest-running in the world, since the earliest years of the Cold War, when revolutionary Fidel Castro's 1959 uprising ultimately brought communism to the island state just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. More than six decades later, the restrictions continue after a rapprochement pursued under former President Barack Obama was reversed by his successor, former President Donald Trump.

Since coming to office, Biden, who served as vice president to Obama, has continued in Trump's footsteps, to the chagrin of China and the majority of the international community that has condemned such sanctions.

"As is known to all, it is the economic, commercial and financial embargo of the US that gravely impedes Cuba's efforts to improve its economy and people's livelihood, and tramples on the Cuban people's right to subsistence and development," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. "We urge the US to heed the universal appeal of the international community, immediately and completely lift the sanctions and embargo against Cuba, and immediately stop making excuses to engage in gross interference and destabilization."

While Cuba has largely weathered the embargo, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new hardships that have impeded the economy.

And Beijing has sought to step in to help.

"Enough with sanctions! The right way is to support," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. "Recently, China and many other friendly countries and international organizations have extended a helping hand to Cuba, aiding the Cuban government and people to fight the epidemic and improve people's livelihood, illustrating that true friendship stands the test of adversity."

"China will continue to implement the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, deepen China-Cuba friendly relations and firmly support Cuba's efforts to overcome the impact of the epidemic, promote economic development and maintain social stability," the spokesperson added.

Cuba, Diaz, Canel, China, Xi, meet, 2013
China is calling on the U.S. to cease its decades-long sanctions against Cuba. China's President Xi Jinping (R) greets Cuba's then-First Vice President of the Council of State Miguel Díaz-Canel at the Great Hall of the People on June 18, 2013. ED JONES/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese remarks were shared by the Cuban Foreign Ministry on social media, alongside the hashtag "#CubaNoEstaSola" or "#CubaIsNotAlone."

Among the other nations to back Cuba is a familiar array of U.S. foreign policy critics, including Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, all of which, like China, also have their own experience being targeted by U.S. sanctions to varying degrees due to policy disputes.

But also offering support and assistance are Mexico and a number of other Latin American states, demonstrating the region's division on the issue.

Several other Latin American states joined the U.S. last week for a joint statement, as well as Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Guatemala, Greece, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, South Korea and Ukraine.

"Today, democracies around the world are coming together to support the Cuban people, calling on the Cuban government to respect Cubans' demands for universal human rights," the State Department said in its statement at the time.

The State Department said it would work with the international community to "continue to provide support to the Cuban people as they seek to exercise those universal human rights and freedoms to which all individuals are entitled."

But even as new sanctions are announced, the Biden administration has yet to announce any conclusion to its policy review of how to approach Cuba.

Biden had previously criticized Trump's approach, saying last year ahead of the election that his policies "inflicted harm on the Cuban people and have done nothing to advance democracy and human rights."

But when asked if opening travel to Cuba or allowing the transfer of remittances to the island was planned, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined on Friday to preview any potential policy changes.

"I will say that on the remittances, this is a complex issue that requires coordination with experts that will help to inform the administration's policy," Jean-Pierre said. "So, at the President's direction, the Department of Treasury and State will form a remittance working group to review available options to establishing those channels."

That same day, Biden also declined to discuss potentially opening travel to Cuba when asked by a reporter as the president made his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House.

In Havana, officials have mounted a countercampaign seeking to highlight issues involving U.S. law enforcement in response to the latest sanctions on Cuban police.

"Police brutality in the US has caused more than a thousand deaths, of which 73% have been black and Hispanic," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez tweeted Wednesday. "Systemic racism claims human lives on American streets by the very bodies that must protect its population."

The Biden administration has sought to subject the U.S. handling of racism and law enforcement to international audit by inviting U.N. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, E. Tendayi Achiume, and U.N. Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, to visit the country and discuss the issue.