Officially Beijing does not want to interfere in Venezuela and supports head of state Maduro. However, the country's largest lender insists that the situation will soon stabilize – no matter how.
By Axel Dorloff, ARD Studio Beijing
Venezuela has a lot at stake for China: billions in loans and investment, major strategic projects on behalf of the New Silk Road. In recent years, China has invested heavily in the country – and is considered the largest believer in Venezuela. Experts estimate the amount of Chinese loans between 2007 and 2017 at over $ 60 billion. Venezuela should repay this partly through oil supplies, but can not meet its obligations due to high production losses. About 20 billion dollars are still due, writes the Chinese financial magazine Caixin. Other experts estimate the number is even higher. So China is worried about its billions and therefore continues to head President Maduro. Beijing State Department spokesman Geng Shuang criticizes both interference and sanctions:
"China firmly adheres to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and for us it remains: only the Venezuelan people themselves can determine their future, we are against unilateral sanctions, they only make the situation more complicated and do not help Solving the practical problems that only lead to a worsening of the living conditions of Venezuelan people requires responsibility for the countries that impose sanctions. "
China and Russia do not recognize Guaidó
This attitude has also confirmed the People's Republic in the UN Security Council. Together with Russia, China has blocked a statement in support of the self-proclaimed Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó. As justification, Ma Zhaoxu, the Chinese UN ambassador to New York, said China has always been opposed to interference in the internal affairs of other states. In the case of Venezuela, this is no different.
"The incidents there pose no threat to international security or international peace," Zhaoxu said. "The topic is not on the agenda of the UN Security Council – and it does not belong there."
Swap loans for oil
The special relationship between Venezuela and China already began under head of state Hugo Chávez. The president and predecessor Maduros, who died in 2013, was an admirer of the Chinese revolutionary leader and state founder, Mao Zedong. That flattered the Chinese. Under Chávez, Venezuela received much of the Chinese credit. In return, however, there were also other commodities for Beijing oil such as Coltan, important for the production of smartphones. Meanwhile, with Venezuela, it went downhill. In September 2018, President Maduro was recently in Beijing to raise more billion-dollar loans. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang confirmed again a few days ago: China continues to Maduro.
"President Xi Jinping sent a special envoy to President Maduro's inauguration, and if we did not recognize him, why would we have been there when he was inaugurated? That would be illogical, and that attitude has not changed."
But even the self-proclaimed transitional president Juan Guaidó recruits for China's support. In early February, he called on the Chinese leadership in the Hong Kong newspaper "South China Morning Post" to recognize him as head of state. China will also play an important role in Venezuela under his leadership, according to his message.
Already 2017 meeting with opposition
However, he also announced that he would review all agreements with China as to whether they had come about according to applicable rules. Because many of the projects financed with Chinese loans in Venezuela have never been completed. This is due to corruption under the Maduro government, Guaidó claims in the interview with the South China Morning Post. In Beijing, the reactions were restrained. Foreigners spokesman Geng Shuang said he was in talks with all sides. It was ready to make a joint effort with all parties, which led to "reconciliation and peaceful negotiations."
And yet, despite official loyalty to Maduro, China is considered pragmatic. It's no secret that there was a meeting with the Venezuelan opposition in Beijing back in 2017. It was probably also a question of whether and how the opposition would hold to existing loan agreements and project agreements with China in the event of a takeover of power. What happens to China's billions and China's influence – that's what they care about most in Beijing.