Don't blame China for the Venezuela story

By Jiang Shixue
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 11, 2016
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In Latin America these days, apart from the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the situation in Venezuela often made the headline recently.

To ease the dangerous political, economic and social situations, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced on May 13, 2016, that a state of emergency would be prolonged for 60 days. He accused the business elite of sabotaging the economy and the United States of plotting a coup or military intervention against his socialist government. But the opposition has been opposed to the new measures and is pushing for a referendum to remove President Maduro from power. It is everybody's guess whether or not he can defeat his opponents.

In China, people are increasingly interested in Venezuela. On the internet or in the newspapers, they wonder how the oil-rich South American country could have sunk into such a severe multi-fold crisis. How long can the Maduro administration sustain its power? What will be the impact of the situation on China-Venezuela ties? Will Venezuela default on its debt obligation to China? Will China save Venezuela? Should China be blamed for the Venezuelan story?

Hugo Chávez came to power in a democratic way and soon won great popularity among the lower classes. More importantly, his rise to power also signaled the re-birth of the left-wing in Latin America. While Europe was and is turning to the right, Latin America started to move to the left. Indeed, the political ecology of the region had witnessed the most significant transformation since the so-called "Third Wave" of democratization took place in the 1980s.

Chávez and his successor, Maduro, have strengthened state control over the economy, implemented massive social development programs with oil money, and openly criticized the hegemonic U.S. policies. As a matter of fact, no other leaders from Latin America were as charismatic as Chávez.

Since Chávez came into power, Venezuela has made remarkable progress in the area of social development. In the economic field, however, it could not avoid the curse of the so-called Dutch Disease, an economics jargon representing the fact that the European country fell into a crisis due to the sudden inflow of income from exporting gas in the 1960s.

Venezuela is well-endowed with oil, a blessing not many countries enjoy. As the joke goes, Venezuelans do not need to work because they can live on the earnings from selling oil to the world market. If money comes so easily, why should they bother to develop manufacturing and agriculture?

But this gala-dinner party was over when the oil price fell. Due to the loss of the oil earnings, Venezuela has had difficulty implementing many economic and social development programs.

Needless to say, the miserable situation in Venezuela today cannot be attributed only to external factors. Bad economic policies, such as neglecting the diversification of economic structure, discouraging foreign and domestic investment and maintaining a distorted exchange rate regime were also counter-productive.

Economic crisis tends to go hand in hand with social crisis. Unemployment, hyper-inflation and a loss of income have driven up crime rates. Pickpockets, robbery and kidnapping have dealt a heavy blow to the personal safety and security of almost everybody in Venezuela. Venezuelan Chinese living there are also victims of the country's pervasive criminality.

Will the voters standing in line for hours to buy daily necessities support the current administration and vote for the ruling party in the next presidential election? Will President Maduro be impeached? No one knows the answers. Hopefully, he will soon turn the page.

Many people in the United States, including the scholars whom I know quite well, say that China is willing to support an anti-U.S. regime with the huge sums of investment, loans and other types of economic aid. They believe that, without the Chinese blood, the Chávez and Maduro administrations would not have survived for so long.

These arguments are groundless. It is true that China has been on good terms with Venezuela since diplomatic relations were set up in 1974. In 2001 the two countries established a strategic partnership of common development, and it was upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014.

It must be pointed out that this bilateral relationship does not target any other third party. As a matter of fact, without the rise of Chávez and the Latin American left, China would still have developed good relations with Venezuela and other countries in the region. It is simply a coincidence that the rapid development of China-Latin America and China-Venezuela ties appeared at the same time when Chávez and the Latin American left started to move to the center stage of Latin American politics.

Moreover, China's economic exchange with Venezuela, including the oil for loan deal, was a win-win game for both sides. Venezuela receives economic assistance from China, and China earns from profits. This is the simple logic of the market law. That is what complementarity means.

Do not forget the fact that the U.S. itself maintains good economic ties with Venezuela by importing large amounts of its oil, although the two countries do not see eye to eye on a wide range of issues. In the age of globalization, economic cooperation happens between countries anywhere at anytime.

So far, Venezuela has not defaulted on its Chinese loans. It might be predicted that no matter who runs Venezuela, China will continue to maintain its comprehensive strategic partnership with the South American nation.

The writer is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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