Media’s hype of China’s spy station in Cuba a new farce
Washington’s insincerity hinders progress in China-US dialogue
Published: Jun 09, 2023 11:41 PM
Cuba's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Fernandez de Cossio speaks during a press conference on June 8, 2023. He refuted the Wall Street Journal report alleging China's deal of building a spy station in Cuba as

Cuba's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Fernandez de Cossio speaks during a press conference on June 8, 2023. He refuted the Wall Street Journal report alleging China's deal of building a spy station in Cuba as "totally mendacious and unfounded." Photo: Visual News

China on Friday criticized the US' long-term interference in Cuba's internal affairs and urged it to stop undermining the political foundation of bilateral relations while claiming to build "guardrails" on China-US relations after the US media's hype of China's so-called deal of building a spy station in Cuba.

The US media's latest sensational reports of "China's eavesdropping facility" in Cuba, which reminds people of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 - one of the fiercest scenes of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union - could be a new farce staged by the media and some US politicians as "good cop, bad cop" with the purpose of gaining the "upper hand" and pressuring China in any possible dialogue, analysts said, referring to a simultaneous US revelation of top diplomat Antony Blinken's possible visit to China. 

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal claimed that China has reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island roughly 160 kilometers from Florida. More Western and US media followed Wall Street Journal in reporting the "news." CNN also claimed that Cuba has agreed to allow China to build a spying facility on the island, citing two sources familiar with the intelligence. 

However, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, a US Defense Department spokesperson, denied the report and said, "We are not aware of China and Cuba developing a new type of spy station." John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said the report is not "accurate" while also noting the US' "real concerns" about China's relations with Cuba, Reuters reported. 

Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio also refuted the Wall Street Journal report as "totally mendacious and unfounded" and said it is a US fabrication meant to justify Washington's decades-old economic embargo against the island. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Friday that spreading rumors and slander is a common tactic of the US. The US is an expert on chasing shadows and meddling in other countries' internal affairs. The US is the global champion of hacking and superpower of surveillance.

Wang Wenbin noted that the US has long illegally occupied Cuba's Guantánamo Bay for secretive activities and imposed a blockade on Cuba for over 60 years. The US needs to take a hard look at itself, stop interfering in Cuba's internal affairs under the pretext of freedom, democracy and human rights, immediately lift its economic, commercial and financial blockade on Cuba, and act in ways conducive to improving relations with Cuba and regional peace and stability, not otherwise.

Old tactics

While hyping the spy installation in Cuba, in recent days, US media also reported on US Secretary of State  Antony Blinken's plan to visit China "as soon as next week" following his trip to the Middle East. However, neither China nor the US has officially released any information on his visit to China in the coming weeks. 

The timing and practice for the US media and some politicians in hyping the so-called Chinese "spy station" in Cuba mirrors the incident in which a Chinese civilian airship deviated off course in February, showing that some forces in the US are scheming to hijack any possible dialogue between China and the US, attempting to force the dialogue to focus on the agenda they set and using it as an opportunity to put extreme pressure on China, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Given Wall Street Journal's influence on the business and trade circle, its report on the so-called spy station in Cuba may have a more malicious purpose - to imply that the increasing geopolitical competition between China and the US has made China an unsafe place for investment, denting the outside world's confidence in China, said Li. 

In February, Blinken announced he was postponing his reported trip to China in response to the flying of what Washington labeled a "spy balloon" over the US. However, China never released or confirmed any information on Blinken's visit and blasted the hype over the balloon incident.

Analysts said this was like a repeat of that incident, noting that similar scenes happened again over the past days as some US politicians, especially GOP lawmakers, may wage sharp criticism on the Biden administration for planning Blinken's trip to China in the wake of the Cuba reports, with some pushing for a tougher response to China's "attack on US national security."

The current complicated signals sent from the US also highlighted the weakness of Biden as a leader and the huge influence interest groups and the deep state have over him, said Li. 

Wang Youming, director of the Institute of Developing Countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times that the latest hype of China's so-called spy facility in Cuba could also be a farce staged by the US government and media, as one of their old tactics is to play "good cop, bad cop" before a key diplomatic engagement.

By hyping such accusations, the US can appear to gain the upper hand in dialogues and stand on the "moral high ground" to shame the other side for playing dirty while the US is "working to promote dialogue," said Wang.

Recently, the US has beefed up efforts to shift blame to China on its refusal to hold dialogue. For example, the US side repeatedly claimed China refused a meeting between State Councilor and Defense Minister Li Shangfu and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue.  

Speaking about China's attitude to dialogue with the US, Wang Wenbin said on Friday that China's position on this issue is consistent and the door to dialogue and communication is always open. However, the important thing is that communication should not be carried out for the sake of communication, still less saying one thing but doing the opposite. 

The US needs to stop interfering in China's internal affairs and stop harming China's interests. It needs to stop eroding the political foundation of bilateral ties while claiming that it wants to put "guardrails" on the relationship. It needs to work together with China to bring bilateral relations back to the right track of sound and steady development, said Wang Wenbin. 

Even if the information on Blinken's visit to China is confirmed, some analysts reached by the Global Times said they are still not optimistic that concrete progress will be made to erase the tense bilateral relations during the visit, since the US has not stopped its destructive actions in many fields, including on the South China Sea and the Taiwan question. 

On Thursday, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a bipartisan proposal that would require reports from US government agencies to prepare for and counter what it called a Chinese mainland "invasion" of the island of Taiwan.

China-US relations are facing a tempestuous environment, as being anti-China has become the politically correct stance in Washington, and there is no sign of an imminent improvement in the short term, given the US' current domestic politics, said Wang. 

Analysts also warned of increasing risks of deteriorating China-US relations and urged the US to give up its obsession with competing with China and take sincere actions to improve relations.