Since January 23, President of Venezuela’s National Assembly Juan Guaido was sworn in as the country’s “interim president”. The US, Brazil and many other countries have issued statements to recognize Guaido. Yet, Venezuela’s Supreme Court reaffirmed that the relevant action of the National Assembly “has violated the Constitution”. President Maduro announced his decision to sever diplomatic ties with the United States and Columbia as well.
As usual, Chinese government immediately and firmly call upon all relevant parties to stay rational and cool-headed and seek a political solution to the issue of Venezuela through peaceful dialogue within the framework of the Venezuelan Constitution. China supports the efforts made by the Venezuelan government to uphold national sovereignty, independence and stability since it always upholds the principle of non-interference in other counties’ internal affairs. Due to this, China opposes foreign interference in Venezuela’s affairs in anyway and hopes that the international society can jointly create favorable conditions for this crisis.
China’s involvement in Latin America is expanding in a visible and dramatic way. As American scholar Ariel Armony observed, “In a time frame of one decade, China has gone from having virtually no presence in Latin America to being a very significant trade partner to a large number of Latin American states, in particular the Mercosur states.” In 2010, China and Venezuela agreed a range of packages that have included financing for Venezuela’s energy infrastructure, aerospace training, guaranteed minimums of oil supply to China and a joint Venezuela-China company for oil exploration. Equally, from a hemispheric perspective, the presence of China in the so-called “backyard” of the United States is surprising in its suddenness and scale, and this in turn has aroused a variety of commentary, debate and policy concerns, particularly in the realm of strategic thinking, political economy and bilateral relations, as argued by Kerry Dumbaugh and Mark Sullivan’s CRS Report to the U.S. Congress.
But it is necessary to note that China’s involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean is part of its general policy of “going out” and then needs to be understood within a larger context of globalization. That indicates China’s current drive to “going out” varies by region, by country, by sector and by prior patterns of engagement. Put it simply, China’s involvement in Latin America is more cautious, though in a rapidly growing profile, rather than a proactive and overall involvement in Africa. Due to this, China is not interested in engaging in geopolitical competition in Latin America.
Consider this, China’s stance on the Venezuela issue can be perceived out of the points as follows. First of all, China has been closely following the uncertain situation in Venezuela. In principle, China must support the Venezuelan government’s efforts to uphold national sovereignty, independence and stability. As Chinese spokesperson has argued, all countries should earnestly observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and Venezuela’s issue must and can only be independently tackled by its own people.
Second, regarding the U.S. possible intervention, either directly or indirectly, China also calls for that all parties can make more efforts to promote stability and development in Venezuela, improve its people’s wellbeing, and observe the international law and basic norms governing international relations. Yet, it is equally assured that China will be unlikely involved in Venezuela’s issue along with Russia which is much frankly critical of the United States and its allies which have cut off their normal ties with Maduro’s government two weeks ago.
Third, the leaders in Beijing are well-aware that China actually can play a minimal role in the West hemisphere if Washington is determined to take actions against the current government of Venezuela. In terms of China’s overall goal in the next three decades, Venezuela is a good and important energy partner of China, yet it is not within Beijing’s core interests. Therefore, China will not openly challenge the U.S. and its hegemony in Latin America and the Caribbean, though China would be frustrated by this reality.
Fourth, although the current government of Venezuela is at stake for the domestic challenger Guaido who has accumulated the vital support and help from the U.S., key EU states and even some of Latin American states, the current leader Maduro and his ruling party has equally large supporters inside the country and the outsides. This reality also encourages China to continue supporting Maduro and his ruling by upholding international law and diplomatic norms. Yet, all in all, China is very unlikely alliance with Russia on the current issue, no matter what end comes out.
However, China’s stance on Venezuela would likely lead to a negative image that China is a simply-driven for money and trade like “a nation of shop-keepers”, a term coined by Napoleon who used to scoff about Britain and early the United States. Liberal group might be critical of China’s indifferences toward the human rights in Venezuela while realist block likely accuses China’s pursuit of power and profits for the final competition with the ruling power, like the United States. Even Russia, which accused the U.S. and its NATO allies of discussing how to arm the opposition in Venezuela, might be unhappy with Beijing’s evasiveness in view of their overall strategic partnership and most of the developing countries would somewhat lose their confidence in Beijing’s commitment in the future. This has frequently happened in the real politics.
There is no doubt that China’s stance on the Venezuela issue comes out of the careful calculation of the reality in Venezuela, Latin America and the real leverage of the U.S. in the whole hemisphere. Recently, Venezuelan FM Jorge Arreaza openly said at a press conference at the UN headquarters that “his government wanted peace with the United States … we want mutual respect between both of us”. He even took initiative to say that he would be very pleased to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, or perhaps in New York.
Chinese government has insisted that it is in line with the fundamental interests of the two sides and two peoples, China-Latin America collaboration has brought the latter a large number of job opportunities and solidly boosted local development and improved people’s livelihood. It is exactly due to America’s uncertainty and arrogance that it has consistently imposed tariffs on China, EU, and Japan while reforming relationships with Canada and Mexico under NAFTA. Under this growing pressure, China has joined Latin American countries in a mission to expand international markets and has offered investment worth 250 billion US dollars. Meanwhile, those with a positive view of the growing China-Latin America relationships see new opportunities in a wider range of investment fields.
As a matter of fact, China, the U.S. and Latin America countries have different comparative advantages in the global trading market. For example, both China and the Latin America are trying to move up to the higher end of the value chain. In addition, China insists in playing a win-win game whereas the current American mindset of international competition reflects the zero-sum game. China is operating in a pragmatic way, which is well-received by the Latin American countries. The best strategy for China and Latin America from now, as Farnsworth suggested, is to forge long-term cooperating relations. Presumably the trade war between China and the US is going to be reduced or end hopefully soon, so the opportunity here is to develop a long-term supplier relationship between these two sides. Once the relationships are built, they are hard to break. True, China and Latin America en bloc are not just business partners, there is more to look at, such as climate change, sustainable environment, and other similar challenges in the global system bring the two sides together, particularly the mutual understanding between the two peoples.