In my travels and interviews in Venezuela this summer, it became clear that there has been a major advance in the relationship between China and the Bolivarian administration of President Chavez. China’s dogged persistence and large state-sponsored investments in Venezuela – apparently the largest they’ve made to date in any country – are finally beginning to bear fruit. The new Chinese influence is being simultaneously extended to both oil and non-oil sectors.
Partly this development is due to the many crises affecting the Bolivarian state, and decisions it has been forced to take to make increasing national oil production a priority. To advance this program, President Chavez’ administration has made initial moves to grant Beijing access to Venezuelan oil in major ways it had not previously.
However, there are two sides to this story: on the other side, increasing Chinese participation is also a product of China having step-by-step put some quite sharp demands on PDVSA and the Venezuelan Bolivarian state for financial transparency and accountability, for geopolitical stabilization, and in particular, for Chinese firms being granted large-scale access to new heavy-oil fields in the Faja of the Orinoco River. The key ingredient here is that Continue reading