Chávez, China cooperate on oil, but for different reasons
The Venezuelan president touts Beijing's $4 billion investment as another punch in his bid to undermine US clout. China is more pragmatic.
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In a statement on the PDVSA website, Chávez bluntly stated the political significance he attaches to the China deal. "Relations between China and Venezuela should be at the highest strategic level, and in the front lines of the battlefield," he declared.Skip to next paragraph
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China stands aside as Chávez rants
But while Chávez's rhetoric revolves around the creation of a new "multipolar" world – one with multiple power centers – China is driven mostly by the need for primary products, as it devours goods from Africa to Latin America, and anywhere else it can find the raw materials it needs to fuel its rapid economic growth.
Beijing certainly has an interest in broadening the basis of international relations.
"China recognizes that in the course of rising it wants to avoid a world whose institutions are dominated by the US," says Evan Ellis, an expert on China-Latin American relations with Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm in McLean, Va. "China's position is strengthened by a world in which the US does not have consolidated control."
China is not interested in engaging in Chávez-style verbal warfare, however, because it has too much to lose. "China not in the business of being a threat to the US, it is in the business of maintaining a high rate of economic growth." says Roger Tissot, director for Latin America at PFC Energy.
"China is a developing country, as is Venezuela, and we can deepen our cooperation within the framework of South-South cooperation," adds Dr. Jiang. "But our cooperation does not target any third country.
"The US and Venezuela can fight, but China wants to stand aside," he explains. "The US is key to China's foreign policy – the top priority, the heaviest among the heavy."
Even for Venezuela, selling oil to China instead of to the US does not necessarily make business sense.
Abelardo Daza, an international analyst at ODH Consulting Group, says that the average transport costs for a barrel of oil sold to the United States, five or six days away by sea, is $3; costs double for the 30-day trip to China. "If you sell more oil to China, you are going to get less income," he says.
Many analysts also warn that China, and other countries with which Venezuela is forging relations, lack the technical expertise to extract and refine the unusually heavy crude found in Venezuela's Orinoco region. "Venezuela is bound to the West by technology that [the other countries] cannot provide," says Mr. Ratliff.