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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will make a high-profile visit to China from September 8-14, marking renewed engagement between the two countries as geopolitical tensions escalate between Beijing and Western powers.
According to China's Foreign Ministry, Maduro's trip follows meetings in Shanghai this week between Venezuelan officials like Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The two sides reportedly discussed strengthening bilateral relations and strategic cooperation.
Energy investment and cooperation will likely be a major focus of discussions during Maduro's visit. China is the world's largest oil importer while Venezuela holds the planet's largest proven reserves. Despite U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan crude, China imported around 283 million barrels from the country in 2021 per data firm Kpler, typically transferred through intermediaries like Malaysia.
The visit also underscores China's expanding footprint in Latin America, a region the U.S. has long considered its sphere of influence. As U.S.-China strategic rivalry heats up, Beijing has courted resource-rich Latin American nations through trade and investment. Venezuela, isolated by Western sanctions, is increasingly dependent on China economically.
The timing of Maduro's trip overlaps with the G20 summit in India this weekend which Chinese President Xi Jinping is skipping. Xi's absence at the New Delhi summit highlights China's alienation from Western-led groupings amidst tensions over Taiwan, human rights, trade and other issues.
Meanwhile, China is cementing ties with non-Western partners like Russia and Venezuela less critical of its authoritarian policies. Maduro last visited Beijing in 2018, meeting with Xi to reportedly sign new oil, mining and security agreements worth billions. His upcoming trip may yield further agreements tightening Venezuela's economic reliance on China.
China also holds significant financial leverage over the heavily indebted South American country. After Hugo Chavez inked $50 billion in oil-for-loan deals in 2007, Venezuela owes around $19 billion to Beijing. Debt relief granted in 2020 provided temporary relief, but Venezuela remains vulnerable to Chinese pressure.
Deepening energy ties will likely be a major component of Maduro's talks with Xi and other officials. Chinese state firm PetroChina holds a 40% stake in Venezuela's Sinovensa oil sands project, though it halted Venezuelan imports in 2019 under U.S. sanctions pressure. New Chinese investments in Venezuela's oil fields and infrastructure are expected to be announced.
Some analysts view Venezuela as a cautionary tale of China's debt diplomacy and extraction of resources from developing nations. But with Venezuela starved of Western capital, deepened Chinese support provides an economic lifeline for Maduro's embattled regime.
In return, Beijing gains a key Western Hemisphere partner at a time of deteriorating relations with Washington and its allies. As the Biden administration rallies democracies against China's perceived global ambitions, Beijing and Caracas aim to highlight developing world solidarity.
Maduro's China visit underscores the regime's isolation from the West and ever-warmer rapport with Beijing. With Venezuela's economy and political system dependent on Chinese trade and credit, Maduro has little choice but to embrace tighter bilateral ties. His trip highlights both the progress and perils of China's growing clout in America's backyard.
Summarised from the article by - voanews.com
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