BEIJING (AFP): Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will visit China from Friday, the foreign ministry in Beijing said, as the oil-rich socialist country seeks to shore up its ailing finances.
China is Venezuela’s main creditor and has close relations with the internationally isolated nation, whose GDP has contracted by 80 percent in a decade because of an economic crisis.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning hailed ties with Venezuela as “rock solid”, calling the two countries “comprehensive strategic partners”.
“In recent years under the direction of President Xi Jinping… cooperation in various fields has been deepening,” she told a regular briefing.
“China is willing to use President Maduro’s visit to Venezuela as an opportunity to plan the blueprint for the development of China-Venezuela relations in a new era,” she added.
Beijing would also seek to “promote the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries to a new level, and make new contributions to promoting world peace and stability, maintaining international fairness and justice”, she said.
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez visited Shanghai and Beijing this week, meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in one of the highest-level China visits by officials from Caracas in years.
“We reinforced our bilateral relationship, expanded strategic cooperation and joint international work for peace and the respect of the UN charter’s principles and goals,” Rodriguez said in a post on social media website X.
The visit was also aimed at securing fresh oil investment from Beijing and discussing a possible joint venture between Venezuelan and Chinese petroleum firms, Bloomberg reported.
Venezuela has long sought Chinese help in bolstering its crisis-hit economy, which is suffering from some of the world’s worst inflation.
– Loans from China –
Maduro last visited Beijing in 2018 — his 10th trip to China — where he praised Xi’s vision of a “common destiny for humanity”.
The Venezuelan leader, who frequently rails against the United States, said it was a destiny of peace “without a hegemonic empire that blackmails, that dominates, that attacks the people of the world”.
Xi also visited Venezuela in 2014.
China loaned about $50 billion to OPEC member Venezuela in the 2010s, with Caracas repaying the debt with shipments of oil, of which it has some of the largest reserves in the world.
It owed $20 billion to Beijing in 2018.
China has also provided extensive technological assistance to Venezuela in expanding control over its population, according to the Atlantic Council.
“The homeland card, inspired by China’s national identity card program, is used by the Venezuelan regime to provide food and medicine to citizens, as well as to track voting and social media use,” the think tank said in a 2020 report.
Maduro’s visit comes as world leaders gather in India for a G20 summit — which Xi is skipping — and after the BRICS meeting in South Africa last month that the Chinese leader did attend.
Maduro, the heir to firebrand leftist Hugo Chavez, last won an election in 2018. That vote was criticised internationally for irregularities.
The United States, then led by President Donald Trump, declared Maduro to be illegitimate and recognised the then-opposition leader Juan Guaido, imposing sweeping sanctions on Venezuela including its oil sector.
But Guaido failed to take control and the opposition removed him last year.
The United States under President Joe Biden says it still does not recognise Maduro and has mostly maintained sanctions.
But the Biden administration approved an oil project in Venezuela last year by Chevron and has voiced a willingness to ease pressure further in return for progress.
Venezuela is due to hold presidential elections next year.