Venezuela in the Orbit of China

Nicolás Maduro this Thursday, during his meeting in China with Xi. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Pablo Cardenal, 15 September 2023 — Nicolás Maduro’s fifth official visit to China concludes. A trip of almost a week that has taken the Venezuelan president through several cities of the Asian country and whose finishing touch was the meeting with his counterpart Xi Jinping, who gave him an audience in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. A solemn and symbolic enclosure, as it shows a paradigmatic of totalitarian architecture, chosen for both leaders to announce the new status of their bilateral relationship: a “strategic association at all challenges and all times.”

As Beijing’s diplomatic tradition dictates, the meeting with one of its most faithful Latin American allies was wrapped in a well-calculated rhetoric of friendship, to which Maduro responded, alluding, in each public appearance, to his fascination with the Asian “economic superpower” and his brotherhood with Beijing for their ideological closeness and anti-American vocation. So much reverence reveals the priority of the trip: Caracas’ plea for China to expand its investments and diversify its economic presence in the country.

The forced exile in search of a better life of more than seven million people clearly exposes the magnitude of the political, economic and humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is experiencing. Since 2007, China has granted it at least 67 billion dollars. It supplied healthcare material and vaccines to fight the pandemic, and is today the main buyer of Venezuelan oil, about 430,000 barrels a day, or more than 60% of Venezuelan exports. Despite his increasing dependence, Maduro wants more. Beijing is his lifeline.

The Chinese government thus picks up the gauntlet and extends the red carpet of the strategic alliance for Caracas to enter the club of China’s great friends. There are Russia, Pakistan, North Korea and many others

The framework in which bilateral ties are supposed to be strengthened is the “strategic partnership at all times,” whose meaning and scope is confusing even in its original expression in English (all-weather strategic partnership), although it is impossible not to guess for Venezuela a future increasingly subordinate both politically and economically to Beijing. The Chinese government thus picks up the gauntlet and extends the red carpet of strategic alliance for Caracas to enter the club of China’s great friends. There are Russia, Pakistan, North Korea and many others.

That Venezuela enters the orbit of Beijing grants it, in addition to preferential access to the Venezuelan market and resources, an additional benefit: an unconditional geopolitical ally in the midst of the growing rivalry (and hostility) with the United States and the rest of the Western world. A benefit that is also reciprocal: in his crusade against Washington, the Venezuelan president celebrates the “birth of a new world,” by the hand of China, that lays “the foundations that leave behind the old world of colonialism and imperialism.”

In its claim to position itself as the leader and benefactor of the so-called Global South against the United States, the Chinese Government thus supports Caracas’ desire and efforts to join the BRICS group, since it serves its objective of expanding its sphere of influence around the world. Beijing aspires to change the current world order, which it considers hegemonic for the United States and exclusive for China. Not to make it necessarily more multilateral or fairer, as official propaganda disseminates, but to influence it in order to make it safer for its interests. Therefore, this fraternal friendship with China has a price for Venezuela: to act as a crutch in the Chinese geopolitical strategy and deepen its economic dependence.


Editor’s note: The author is a journalist and writer specializing in the internationalization of China and the editor of Análisis Sínico at

Translated by Regina Anavy


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