China and Venezuela deepen diplomatic ties with multifaceted agreements

The relationship between Venezuela and China has seen its ups and downs.

China and Venezuela deepen diplomatic ties with multifaceted agreements
China's President Xi Jinping and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro meet at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China September 13, 2023. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

The backstory: The relationship between Venezuela and China has seen its ups and downs. Over the past few years, some significant Chinese projects in Venezuela have been abandoned, and Venezuela has been grappling with severe financial struggles during an economic downturn. To give you a broader view, the country’s been actively seeking membership in BRICS, a group that includes countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

China, being the world's largest crude oil importer, holds a lot of influence over Venezuela's oil and gas sector. This comes from China being the Latin American country’s primary creditor. Venezuela relies heavily on oil revenue, making up 95% of its overseas income. But even though it has abundant oil reserves, its oil production has taken a nosedive over the last two decades, mainly because of corruption, mismanagement and US sanctions.

To make things even more complicated, Venezuela has been caught up in a complex political and humanitarian crisis for the past decade, which has led to a mass exodus of over seven million people.

More recently: Last week, a delegation from Venezuela, led by Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and Oil Minister Pedro Tellechea, made its way to Shanghai. They were reported to discuss potential joint ventures between China and the state-run oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela SA. But as of now, they've kept their cards close to the chest, and no concrete details of deals have been announced.

The development: On Wednesday, China’s President Xi Jinping met with Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro. The two leaders signed agreements covering the economy, trade and tourism, with Xi calling this an "all-weather strategic partnership." He made it clear that they're both on the same page when it comes to their development goals and they are “good friends with mutual trust.” Venezuela is also on board with China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure project. On top of that, they inked deals in sectors like mining, space exploration, oil production and agriculture.

In an interview with Chinese media, Maduro expressed wanting China's support for joining the BRICS group. He's also looking for more Chinese investment in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Key comments:

“We’re organizing an agenda for a new era in the relationship between China and Venezuela,” said Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro in a live transmission of his meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. “It’s a cooperation based on mutual respect where energy and oil are at the axis.”

“Here we are in China again,” said Maduro in a video posted on X.

"If we are asked whether Venezuela wants to be part of the BRICS in the future, yes, we want to be a humble part of the BRICS and keep pace with the changing geopolitical situation," said Maduro in May.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning has called ties with Venezuela “rock solid,” calling the two countries “comprehensive strategic partners.”