Venezuela Receives Support, China Consolidates Interests

Timothy Gill

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro concluded their XIII China-Venezuela Joint Commission of High-Level meetings in Caracas on Monday. During President Xi’s two-day visit, China and Venezuela fortified existing relations and established 38 new agreements.

Relations between the two countries have greatly accelerated since former President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999 and sought to reduce dependency on the US. Yet, despite receiving $50 billion worth of loans from China, some analysts have argued that Chinese government leaders have grown frustrated with Venezuela’s alleged mismanagement of loans and unwillingness to close large oil deals. These new agreements, however, show that China continues to find Venezuela stable enough to invest in and, of course, secure oil from.

On July 20, President Xi arrived in Caracas and stated that he was “looking forward to charting the future course of bilateral ties together with President Maduro and communicating extensively with the Venezuelan people from all walks of life, so as to promote friendship, cooperation and development and lift the China-Venezuela relations to a new height.”

 

During President Xi’s trip, he renewed a $4 billion credit line that will go into the Chinese-Venezuela Joint Fund for development projects that Venezuela will repay with oil. The funds will be provided by the Chinese Development Bank, which opened a Venezuelan office on July 19.

President Xi agreed to construct 4,512 housing units and a cement plant that will produce 1.2 million tons of cement per year. China will also construct a Yutong bus factory as well as a third Venezuelan satellite and share remote sensory information to help Venezuela map the country.

Between establishing agreements, the two leaders visited the National Assembly and its leaders; Tiuna City and its housing projects; and the tomb of ex-President Chávez. President Maduro also bestowed President Xi with the Liberators’ Order of the First Class.

At the conclusion of the meetings, President Maduro lauded China, saying that it is “an unprecedented example in the world” and stated that everything “[the Venezuelan government] do[es] with China is for the happiness of our people.” Maduro also stressed that Chinese “financing does not put our country into burdensome debt, it is financing that is backed up by a formula of production and supplies of barrels of oil.”

Critics, however, have questioned the utility of Chinese-Venezuelan relations.

Henrique Capriles, opposition leader and governor of Miranda, pointed out that many Chinese-Venezuelan development projects have not been completed, including a bridge over the Orinoco River, housing projects, and railways. Capriles questioned the benefits that Venezuelans receive from the purchase of three-dimensional radar, military helicopter maintenance, and $492 million worth of Chinese military planes. He also called attention to how $84 million worth of Chinese funds recently disappeared from the Chinese-Venezuela Joint Fund.

James Bosworth has also pointed out that some of the Chinese-Venezuelan agreements mandate that Venezuela purchase Chinese vehicles with the loans they receive. And while intensifying relations with China is openly attributed to Venezuela’s desire to reduce dependence on the US, Bosworth claims that “being lent money (repaid in oil) to purchase foreign autos instead of rebuilding domestic industry is Galeano-style Open Veins dependency.”

Venezuela and China have maintained relations since 1974. Their relations, however, greatly intensified under former President Chávez with the two countries establishing over 400 bilateral agreements and China investing over $50 billion in Venezuela. In 2013, China remained Venezuela’s largest trading partner next to the US, with trade between the two countries amounting to $19.3 billion.