China’s ties with Venezuela at a key juncture

China’s ties with Venezuela at a key juncture

The strengthening of relations between Venezuela and China is a process that started with the presidency of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), who visited China in 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009. In those meetings, both countries agreed on a strategic alliance for joint development in 2001, which was later upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014.

The field of energy has been one of the most relevant for both nations. This has been the main cause of the creation of several mixed oil companies, with the participation of Venezuelan State companies and Chinese private or State-owned companies. It includes not only the contracts already executed for oil supply, but also the assembly, construction and installation of oil drilling rigs, the quantification and certification of oil reserves in the Orinoco Oil Belt in the east of Venezuela, and the financing associated with this strategic activity. In addition, China is developing 12 energy projects in Venezuela.

Another issue that has received financing and technical assistance from China is agriculture. China provided agricultural machinery, along with the installation of experimental farms such as in Barinas State and the training and education of Venezuelan personnel. On the infrastructure front, China has cooperated in the rehabilitation of the national railway system, the expansion and modernization of the Puerto Cabello port, the subway transportation system in Caracas, Valencia and Maracaibo, the urban reordering and housing construction of 20,000 houses in Caracas, along with Belarus and Russia, with 4,537 homes in the residential complex Palma Sola in Barinas completed in 2011.

In transport and communications, Venezuela has three satellites placed in orbit by China. In addition, joint ventures were formed, including one by mobile phone makers Venezolana de Telecomunicaciones in conjunction with China's ZTE for the production of cellphones, one by Venezolana de Industrias Tecnologicas with China's multinational IT company the Inspur Group for the assembly of computers at low cost. Also, both countries agreed to export to Venezuela technological components for the assembly of computers and servers.

Another cooperation program in transport is the bus manufacturing factory of Yutong brand in Venezuela. And China's Chery Automobile Co., Ltd also built a plant in Venezuela. With respect to social programs, Mi Casa Bien Equipada was created with the purpose of providing the Venezuelan population with household appliances from the renowned Chinese brand Haier.

On the other hand, it can also be said that the military and security partnership between China and Venezuela has allowed the South American country the acquisition of training military planes K-8W, vehicles, equipment, technical service, new systems and parts.

Finally, a large number of Venezuelans have been educated and trained in different universities and institutions of China as part of a cultural exchange program. The Confucius Institute in the Bolivarian University of Venezuela in Caracas was inaugurated on December 16, 2016.

Until 2016 a total of 672 projects were jointly developed. From that number, 338 were completed, 203 were in execution, and 131 were about to start; all of them in areas related to hydrocarbons, mining, food, housing, transportation, basic industries, health, education, culture and sports. According to official statistics, China and Venezuela have invested more than $62 billion in the development of cooperation projects.

It is undeniable that the presence of China in Venezuela is getting stronger every day, of which the US is skeptical for geopolitical reasons. There are still results to be evaluated from the projects that are being executed, and of new ones that would have been negotiated in President Nicolas Maduro's visit to China last week. This will take time, and will depend on the efficiency of the institutions involved, both Chinese and Venezuelan.

For Venezuelans, the huge debt acquired with China is worrisome, especially in this moment of crisis facing the Venezuelan nation. We hope that the cooperation between both countries will be strengthened and generate good results.

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