Caracas, September 9, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro arrived in China on Friday for a several-day visit to strengthen economic and political ties amidst the nations’ efforts to advance multipolarity.
“[We are] ready for what will be a historic visit for the strengthening of cooperation ties and the construction of a new world geopolitics,” Maduro wrote on social media when he landed in the city of Shenzhen, the first stop in his trip between September 8-14.
The Chinese government put together an elaborate welcoming ceremony for the Venezuelan delegation in Shenzhen Talents Park. This included a light show with hundreds of drones forming an animated message that read: “May the friendship between China and Venezuela be eternal.”
President Maduro thanked China for the presentation as well as for supporting Venezuela in the struggle to recover the economy from the “onslaught” of Washington’s sanctions against the country. The US sanctioned Venezuela’s oil industry in 2017, imposed a full-fledged embargo in 2019 and secondary sanctions in 2020, among other measures targeting nearly all economic sectors.
“I deeply appreciate the courage and firmness of President Xi Jinping’s government and the Chinese people in accompanying Venezuela in denouncing these illegal and criminal sanctions,” said Maduro in an interview with Xinhua.
The Venezuelan president stressed that China and Venezuela are committed to development and cooperation.
“Between China and Venezuela, there is a model relation. It is a model of what should be the relation between a superpower like China, the great superpower of the 21st century, and an emerging, heroic, revolutionary and socialist country like Venezuela”, he stated. He also reiterated Caracas’ interest in joining the BRICS group.
This is President Maduro’s fifth visit to the People’s Republic of China. The last one took place in 2018 when the two countries signed twenty-eight agreements, including a US $5 billion Chinese loan to boost Venezuela’s oil industry and joint plans for a fourth satellite.
In recent years, the Caribbean nation has steadily met its obligations with China in long-term agreements that saw Caracas pay back extensive loans (with a reported $10-12 billion left) through crude shipments. According to Reuters, Caracas is now in talks with China for a fresh credit line for infrastructure projects.
On Saturday, Maduro signed a memorandum of understanding, the first during his visit. The document establishes cooperation between Venezuela’s National Superintendency of Special Economic Zones and China’s Special Economic Zones Research Center of Shenzhen University. The agreement aims to develop these fledging areas in the South American country.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are defined as geographical areas under exceptional rules and regulations. They can be geared towards a given economic activity, from industry to tourism, while also prioritizing imports, exports or technological development.
Venezuela currently has five active zones located across the country and created with the stated purpose of advancing toward a post-oil economic model. Nonetheless, the project has sparked criticism amidst Chavista ranks for granting too many privileges to private capital.
Following the signing of the new agreement, the Venezuelan leader traveled to Shanghai, the second stop in his official visit. He was accompanied by his wife Cilia Flores and several ministers. The president is expected to announce more agreements and might visit other countries as well in the coming days.
Earlier in the week and prior to Maduro’s trip, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez visited Beijing and Shanghai alongside Oil Minister Rafael Tellechea. The officials met with China’s Vice President Han Zheng and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to reaffirm the countries’ joint struggle against “hegemonism and unilateralism.”
The two high-level officials likewise held meetings with executives from the Shanghai International Energy Exchange and the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange. “Two central institutions for energy trade and future contracts formulation in Asia,” Tellechea posted on X.
China is Venezuela’s main oil buyer and has imported around 390,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from the country between January and August this year via third-party intermediaries, according to commodities consultancy Vortexa.