Maduro Hits Partnership Boost and Floats BRICS Membership for Venezuela on China Trip

Maduro Hits Partnership Boost and Floats BRICS Membership for Venezuela on China Trip
Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela

The Lede: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Beijing this week where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping met and announced that the two countries would be upgrading diplomatic ties to an ‘all weather partnership.’ Maduro also floated the idea of China helping with extending BRICS membership for Venezuela.

What We Know:

  • At the Wednesday meeting, the two countries signed several bilateral cooperation documents focused on various areas including economy, trade, and tourism as well as deals on the economy and trade, science and technology, civil aviation, aerospace, and space exploration.
  • Maduro also voiced his support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative.
  • Maduro expressed his desire for Venezuela to gain membership in the BRICS group, which recently expanded to include new member countries. He also recommended strengthening China’s involvement in his region through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and expanding the scope of the UN Charter.
  • In the previous week, Venezuela’s vice president Delcy Rodríguez and oil minister Pedro Tellechea arrived in Shanghai to discuss possible joint ventures between China and the state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

The Background: Venezuela possesses the world’s largest reserves of crude oil. Oil accounts for about 95 percent of the country’s overseas revenue. Venezuela’s oil ministry has been working closely with China National Petroleum Corps (CNPC). Venezuela is the first Latin American country to join the International Lunar Research Station led by Russia and China. The country has struggled to profit from its resources due to mismanagement, corruption, and U.S. sanctions. The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Venezuela after the country’s 2019 presidential election was deemed fraudulent. The U.S. has struck a more conciliatory tone recently with President Joe Biden granting Chevron a license to resume pumping oil in Venezuela and seeking to discuss the lifting of sanctions with Venezuelan officials if the country will allow fair elections next year. The ‘all weather partnership’ designation is reserved for a select group of diplomatic partners such as Pakistan.

Likely Outcomes:

  • Maduro’s visit and announcements of securing such a varied array of Chinese cooperation for his country will likely win him points at home and for his upcoming presidential election in 2024, although no date has been set and he has banned opposition candidates.
  • This visit is also an opportunity for both Venezuela and China to signal to the U.S. that the two countries are cultivating ties among countries that do not traditionally align with the Western order. For China, Venezuela represents a resource-rich Latin American country that has been long maligned by Washington that is more than willing to cooperate and follow Beijing’s lead. Venezuela will likely wait for Washington’s next move to see if the tentative thaw in tensions will bear any significant fruit.
  • The U.S. may begin to walk a more centrist line with Venezuela to probe opportunties to balance this tightening bond with China. However, like in many other regions where the U.S. is playing catch up with China in fostering diplomatic and economic ties, Beijing may have a runaway headstart with Caracas. Washington may be better served by shoring up ties with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where it has an advantage.


"We are traveling the same path towards a world of peace without hegemonism or colonialism, where culture and civilization are respected.” – Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela

“The reality is that Venezuela owes over $15 billion to China at the moment, and the Chinese are looking to recover their investment before they get any deeper.” – Geoff Ramsey, senior fellow with the Atlantic Council

Good Reads:

China, Venezuela sign agreements on economy, trade, tourism (Reuters)

Venezuela’s Maduro Wants China’s Support to Join the BRICS (Bloomberg)

Maduro says Venezuela will send astronauts to moon in Chinese spaceship (Washington Post)

President Maduro's China Tour to Diversify Venezuelan Economy (teleSUR)

Venezuela’s President Maduro seeks Chinese money to revive country’s oil sector (SCMP)

Xi, Maduro announce elevation of China-Venezuela ties (Xinhua)