Cuban President Raul Castro begins talks with China's leaders on Thursday during which he is expected to win backing from his country's longtime ally in helping to implement historic economic reforms.
Castro will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Thursday afternoon, after which the two sides are scheduled to sign a series of agreements that analysts said may focus on trade and infrastructure.
Castro's four-day visit to China comes at a crucial time for Cuba, which is in the throes of a massive overhaul of its economy towards a system that incorporates elements of capitalism.
China has embarked on a similar economic reform programme over recent decades with stunning results, and analysts said Castro's visit would be a good opportunity for him to survey the Chinese success story.
"Cuba can learn many things from other socialist countries that have been economically successful, like China," said Yang Jianmin, a deputy director of the Center for Cuban Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Yang said some of the most notable reforms Cuba could look at were in areas such as market stability, exports, investment and requirements needed to open companies.
"These experiences can help Cuba in their process of opening-up and generate many opportunities," he said.
Castro is also slated to meet China's two leaders-in-waiting, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, on Friday, helping to deepen personal ties with the men widely expected to assume the Chinese presidency and premiership.
His visit to China, which began in low-key fashion Wednesday with no official meetings, follows Xi's trip to Havana last year when the two sides signed 10 deals aimed at supporting Cuba's economic reforms.
The agreements included a new line of credit and financial aid to help modernise the Cuban public health system, official media in Havana reported at the time, although no figures were announced.
The countries' close relationship dates back to 1960. Ties grew even closer after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, which precipitated Cuba's downward economic spiral from which the country is still trying to recover.
China is Cuba's top trading partner after Venezuela, with bilateral trade worth $1.8 billion a year. China is also a vital source of credit for the cash-strapped communist island.
Castro is being accompanied by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Ricardo Cabrisas, vice chairman of Cuba's council of ministers, the official Granma newspaper in Havana reported this week.
The Cuban delegation is then expected to travel to Vietnam, another communist ally that has like China embarked on a successful economic transformation by incorporating capitalist elements.
Vietnam is also an important economic partner for Cuba, particularly in the agricultural sector.
The Southeast Asian nation is Cuba's main supplier of rice, a staple food item on the island. Bilateral trade totaled $269 million in 2010, according to official statistics.