“[Hugo] Chávez was an outstanding leader of Venezuela, and a good friend of the Chinese people,” noted China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday. Whatever personal sorrow might be felt in Beijing this week, China’s regret at the strongman’s passing is founded largely on worries over the future of economic relations with his government.
Those relations have grown considerably in recent years. According to Matt Ferchen, a scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, the China Development Bank has cut loans-for-oil deals in Venezuela over the past five years that account for some 60 per cent of all China’s exposure in Latin America. In 2012, Venezuela made payments on the $42bn loan by sending China an average of about 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day.