China’s political stance is the key factor that will determine the future of Venezuela!
Cooperation between China and Venezuela began to grow significantly following Hugo Chavez’ ascent to power in 1999. Following Chavez’ death in 2013, the good relations between the two nations continued under Maduro’s presidency. From 2000 to 2018, the trade between the two countries increased more than 20-fold and the value of Chinese direct investment to the country reached $6bn. Meanwhile, the total value of Chinese loans to Venezuela surpassed the $60bn mark.
However, on January 23, when US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela, he thought deposing President Nicolas Maduro from power would be easy. He had a simple, three-thronged plan: declare Maduro’s presidency illegitimate by exposing the irregularities in the election that brought him to power, establish a transition government, and hold new elections that would bring the opposition to power. However, almost six months on, Guaido is not any closer to loosening Maduro’s grasp on power. The main reason behind the 35-year-old opposition leader’s failure to bring Maduro down is the support that some prominent international powers, most significantly China, have given to the Venezuelan government.
China, a global power with significant financial and military ties to Venezuela, refused to recognise Guaido’s presidency on the grounds thatdoing so would amount to intervening in the internal affairsof a sovereign state.
Guaido’s foreign backers, the US chief among them, interpreted China’s stance on the issue as support for Maduro and his government and even implied that China is responsible for the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
Meanwhile, acknowledging the important role China has been playing in the ongoing crisis, Guaido started a campaign to convince Beijing to end its support for the Chavista government. The self-declared interim president published an op-ed in Bloomberg titled, Why China Should Switch Sides in Venezuela. In the article, Guaido argued that the opposition government would protect China’s interests and investments better than the Chavistas and pledged to give China new financial incentives in Venezuela if it agrees to seize its support to the current government.
Guaido’s article and the irritation of US on China’s continued support for the regime, only confirm a fact many Venezuela watchers have been aware of for a very long time: China’s political stance is the key factor that will determine the future of Venezuela.
While Beijing is an indispensable economic and political partner to Caracas, the Latin American nation is also very important to China.
China views the oil-rich socialist country as a significant trading partner and a geopolitical ally in its main political and economic rival US’s backyard. Moreover, the investments Beijing made in the country in the last couple of decades made Venezuela an important component in China’s future economic prosperity and energy security.
Unofficially, there are a number of other reasons. Beijing is still siding with the Venezuelan government because it believes having a like-minded socialist ally in the US’ backyard is more important than any costs it may incur as a result of the ongoing Venezuelan crisis. Additionally, “south-south cooperation” is currently one of the mainstays of China’s foreign policy and Beijing does not want to risk its reputation as a leading trading partner and trustworthy investor in the global south by siding with a US-backed opposition group and supporting its attempt to unlawfully topple the legitimate government of a sovereign country.
Moreover, despite Guaido’s best efforts, China has no reason to trust the Venezuelan opposition. For years, the position of the opposition regarding Venezuelan debt commitments to China has been ambiguous.
China’s position, however, is not set in stone. Guaido and his supporters can still convince the Chinese to change their mind by distancing themselves from the Trump administration and providing some form of reassurances that they would honour Venezuela’s financial commitments to China. If the opposition indeed finds a way to win the trust of Beijing, it would have a much better chance at challenging the Chavistas and eventually taking power in Venezuela.