China’s growing economic role in Venezuela is a direct result of Hugo Chávez’s systematic drive to supplant U.S. influence over his country, a trend that is spreading throughout Latin America. This staggering compendium of Sino-Venezuela co-operation projects, drawn up by Pravda journalist Olivia Kroth, is emblematic of the shift in the center of gravity towards China occurring in a region that Washington has traditionally regarded as its own backyard and which is now hanging the U.S. out to dry.
- President Hugo Chávez with Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-director of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission. Since 1998, when Chávez was elected President, trade between China and Venezuela has jumped from 200 to 16,000 million dollars in 2011.
Since 2009, a boost in Sino-Venezuelan cooperation can be remarked in agriculture, energy, housing, telecommunications, trade, transport and tourism.
Great energy projects have seen the light of day during the last three years, from drilling oil in Venezuela’s Orinoco Basin to creating a Sino-Venezuelan company to manufacture oil tankers and an oil refinery. “Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world”, says President Hugo Chávez. “All the oil China needs is here in Venezuela”.
The Faja del Orinoco contains 520 billion barrels of crude oil. The Orinoco oil belt has been divided into blocs, where oil is extracted by Sino-Venezuelan joint ventures in which Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA keeps at least 60 percent controlling share.
Officials from PDVSA meet regularly with Chinese oil industry colleagues to plan further steps of oil extraction, building petroleum platforms, oil refineries and a fleet of oil tankers.
Currently Venezuela exports 400.000 barrels per day to China, the aim is to reach one million in 2025.
Hugo Chávez speaks of “gradualness and joint development”. Sino-Venezuelan projects constitute part of a “strategic long-term development plan, to be implemented in several stages until 2025”, according to the Venezuelan President.
China’s Vice-President, Xi Jinping, says of Hugo Chávez that “his presence is a very positive attribute for commercial development between China and Venezuela.”
Hugo Chávez has turned to Big Sister in order to diversify his country’s oil export markets. During his presidency Venezuela has become the 5th largest Latin American economy partner for China and its 4th largest oil supplier.
The Venezuelan President loves China and is very impressed by Big Sister’s economic development. He lauds the Asian giant as being “the greatest motor that exists to drive the world beyond the crisis of capitalism. Nobody can doubt that the center of gravity of the world has been moved towards Beijing".
Hugo Chávez also wishes for ALBA member states to get more involved with Big Sister, encouraging them regularly at ALBA summits to “form a united front” of Latin America with China.
Sino-Venezuelan energy cooperation reaches even further than oil. China is helping Venezuela to develop its electricity grid by increasing hydro- and thermo-electricity production.
The Chinese Sinohydro Corporation and the Venezuelan state electricity company CORPOELEC cooperate in order to augment Venezuela’s hydro-electricity output.
Furthermore, Chinese specialists give Venezuela technical assistance and technology transfer to boost thermo-electricity production. A thermo-electric plant of 500 megawatts capacity has already been installed in the state of Mérida, three more plants with a capacity of 300 megawatts each are envisaged in the country’s north and east.
In the field of agriculture, China assisted Venezuela in building an irrigation project with the Guarico River in the state of Guarico. The Chinese Heilongjiang Beidahuang State Farm Business Trade Group LTD formed a joint venture food company in Venezuela to help with agricultural development, mainly the production of grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. Currently Chinese agriculture experts are studying the conditions of soil, water and vegetation in Venezuela for further improvement. They also give training and technology to Venezuelan farmers.
With Big Sister’s assistance, great housing programs were completed. About 4000 new homes were built in the state of Barinas with China’s Citic Group. Another 20.000 new homes were constructed in the Fuerte Tiuna District of Caracas.
The Chinese company XCMG, one of the largest construction equipment companies world-wide, sells modern equipment to Venezuela: compacters, construction mixers, cranes, excavators and trucks.
To fill the new homes, adequate household appliances are needed. “My Well Equipped House” is the name of the Venezuelan government policy to sell Chinese household appliances at discount prices.
In May 2010, a contract was signed that Venezuela will buy 300,000 household items from Haier Electric Appliances in China. In May 2012, President Hugo Chávez approved the construction of the “Haier Venezuela” factory in the state of Miranda. It will produce electrical kitchen appliances at affordable prices for the population. Another area where Venezuela was able to make a huge leap forward with Big Sister’s assistance is telecommunications.
In November 2008, the first telecom satellite, Venesat-1, called “Simón Bolívar”, was launched from Xichang in China. This satellite links isolated Venezuelan communities, providing them with means of communication and educational services.
With Venesat-1 the country gained independent internet and telephone access. The satellite enabled two million new users to connect to internet and phone services.
The installed remote antennas help the government markets Mercal, the army border protection bases and schools in the entire Venezuelan territory. The range of Venesat-1 reaches from the Caribbean Sea to the southern tip of the continent, thus strengthening Latin American unity.
Venesat-1 has two land stations and a television port. It is managed by Venezuela’s state-owned telecommunications company CANTV and shares Uruguay’s orbit, according to an agreement between Venezuela and Uruguay. In 2009, Venezuela inaugurated its first cellular phone factory in the state of Falcón. The Venezuelan Telecommunications Corporation VTELCA was constructed with Chinese technology and support.
Venezuela’s second satellite VRSS-1 (Venezuela Remote Sensing Satellite) will be launched in October 2012, again from China. It will serve for land observation, especially environment management, urban planning and climate monitoring.
Ricardo Menéndez, Venezuela’s Minister for Science and Technology, says, “We are going to have a satellite that will enable us to monitor the national territory 24 hours a day, something which has enormous potential in terms of providing assistance in extreme situations, for example heavy rains”.
For 2013, the construction of a Venezuelan satellite factory is being prepared in the state of Carabobo, as part of the Venezuelan government’s intent to reach technological sovereignty. Chinese and Venezuelan experts are cooperating in this new enterprise.
In transport, the “National Railway Development Plan” comprises 8500 miles of railway, connecting the remotest parts of Venezuela with each other. The plan is to be implemented until the year 2030. It includes 380 new railway stations and 550 new trains. They will transport 210 million passengers and 190 million tons of cargo every year.
This railway system is being built with Chinese technology. The 800 million dollar project is financed by the China-Venezuela Strategic Development Fund which was set up in 2008.
Besides trains, China also offers cars to Venezuela. Four Chery dealerships recently opened on Venezuelan territory, one in Caracas, three in other parts of the country, attracting Venezuelans to buy either the “Arauca” or the “Orinoco” models, named after two rivers flowing through Venezuela.
Eighteen more Chery dealerships are in the planning. The cars are assembled in Venezuela under an agreement with China. 5000 vehicles were already assembled in 2011, another 28.000 are planned until the end of this year. The enterprise is financed jointly by Chery and a Venezuelan company. Venezuela has ambitious intentions in tourism as well. President Chávez’ government wants to attract more Chinese visitors.
A Venezuelan group participated in this year’s International Tourism Fair in Beijing. The Venezuelan stand presented posters and videos of Caribbean beaches, Amazonian jungles, the snow-capped Andes peaks and the Llanos, the wide grasslands in central Venezuela with their cattle herds and Llanero culture.
Venezuela wants to offer adventure and nature tours through the Llanos states of Apure, Barinas, Cojedes and Guárico with their special fauna and flora to Chinese tourists who are interested in ecological tourism. Alejandro Fleming, Venezuela’s Minister for Tourism, reported about the International Tourism Fair of Beijing in “Todo Venezuela” (All of Venezuela), a TV program emitted by Venezuela de Televisión. The Minister said that representatives of Chinese tourist agencies showed great interest in organizing tours to Venezuela. Many private Chinese guests also visited the stand, mainly to watch the videos showing Venezuelan race driver Pastor Maldonado, who won the Formula 1, in his race car.
Meanwhile the first biography of Hugo Chávez in Mandarin has appeared, written by the Chinese author Xu Shicheng who describes the Venezuelan President as “the great leader of the Latin American Left in the 21st century”.
The book with the title “Biography of Hugo Chávez: From the Bolivarian Revolution to the Socialism of the 21st Century” was presented at the Venezuelan Embassy in Beijing in the summer of 2011. Ambassador Rocío Maneiro and 300 guests attended the event, from Chinese intellectuals to foreign diplomats.
- Book presentation at the Venezuelan Embassy in Beijing, China: Biography of Hugo Chávez in Mandarin.
“It was a great challenge to write about someone so active in the scene of world politics, someone who has achieved great economic, political, social and diplomatic changes in his country. I tried to approach with great honesty the main steps of his relations to Russia and China”, the Chinese author said.
“Hugo Chávez has already become a part of Latin American history for having initiated the appearance of left movements on the continent through elections. Since 1999, this appearance of the Left has extended to Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay. Chávez is an important statesman for Latin America and the world”, Xu Shicheng emphasized in an interview.
The Chinese writer pointed out that the previous analysis of Hugo Chávez’ thoughts had helped him to understand his “exemplary character” since joining the Military Academy. According to Xu Shicheng, the Venezuelan President is a “very agile person” who has learned his lessons since coming into power, and who has corrected his course, which helped him to win the referendum of 2009.
“For Hugo Chávez, I planned to contribute elements appraising his figure in the frame of the thirteen years of his mandate”, the author explained. Xu Shicheng has pursued Latin American studies for more than 40 years and travelled on the continent several times.
Xu Shicheng congratulated Hugo Chávez on his 57th birthday. He remarked that of all Latin American presidents he is the one who visited China most often, six times altogether, a fact that proves “the good relations between both countries”.
The biography has already been translated into Spanish. The tome of 400 pages was published in the People’s Publishing House of China. Its extensive bibliography contains some speeches and essays from the website “Líneas de Chávez.”
One of the Venezuelan President’s many noteworthy thoughts is that China and Venezuela pursue the “common goal of creating a balance in the world, a multi-polar world. China and Venezuela have just one project and one vision: a new world, a world of justice, a world of equality, a world of progress.”