“I thank President Díaz-Canel and the Cuban people for hosting this important meeting within the framework of our fight for a multicentric and pluripolar world. By reaffirming our commitment to developing nations, we are building the century of the people of the south,” said Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro as the “G77+China” summit commenced in Havana.
The conference, which was attended by more than 100 countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Nicaragua was replete with speeches calling for a new world order – an order where China leads and the US follows.
Founded in 1964, the G77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations. Its purpose is clear: to promote the interests of the developing world shut out from the G7 and G20 events, serving as a forum for 80 per cent of the world’s population.
China is not a member of the bloc, hence the +China title. But the country’s interest in this particular meeting is revealing, given Xi Jinping’s much-discussed absence from the G20 summit in New Delhi. In visiting Cuba, a country that is well-known for its uniquely anti-US history – and positioned just ninety miles away from El Imperio – China has made it clear that it is taking the side of the “oppressed.”
“Unilateralism and hegemonism are becoming rampant. Some countries are resorting to such practices as unilateral sanctions, erection of ‘fences and barriers,’ decoupling, and disruption of industrial and supply chains, seriously undermining the legitimate development rights and interests of developing countries,” railed Li Xi, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Xi Jinping substitute.
“We, the developing nations, have won national independence and liberation after a long and arduous journey […] We have invariably stood in solidarity through thick and thin. We have supported each other and grown together, and we are a community that rise and fall together. As a Chinese saying goes, ‘When brothers are of the same mind, they can cut through metal with combined strength,’” he added, depicting China as an inclusive world leader.
The meeting ended with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel calling on attendees to “change the rules of the game”. There was no lack of condemnations directed at Uncle Sam, including those delivered by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva and Honduran President Xiomara Castro – who broke off ties with Taiwan in March.
A day before the summit, the autocrat Maduro had travelled to Beijing after five years without touching Chinese soil. The moment Maduro’s plane landed in the city of Shenzhen, speculation about what the Venezuelan leader was seeking began. Expectedly, oil and money came to mind for most journalists: after all, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the planet.
But Chinese interests in the region go well beyond oil. Xi Jinping welcomed Maduro while skipping the G20 summit, and has made a concerted effort to show the world how close the two nations are to one another. The CCP upgraded their relationship with the South American country to an “all-weather strategic partnership,” which they reserve for their closest partners, of which Venezuela is now the first in Latin America.
After his visit, the “son of Chávez” announced that Venezuelan citizens will be sent to the moon in a Chinese spacecraft. The CCP-sponsored publication The People’s Daily quoted Zhao Bentang, China’s foreign ministry head for Latin America, vowing to help push Venezuela forward.
When China looks to the region, they do not see the chaos that the US observes – and has grown accustomed to. They see opportunities, both economic and political.
China understands that Latin America will play a crucial role as the world prepares for the next industrial revolution, considering that the region has trillions of dollars worth of critical minerals essential for the development of emerging technologies. The CCP has already acquired dozens of mines throughout the continent, as so-called anti-imperialists welcome them with preferential contracts.
Additionally, China recognises the geostrategic significance of having a presence in America’s neighbourhood. For instance, China’s plans to build a military facility in Cuba have already been unveiled. Still, while all this happens, Americans’ eyes shift to Europe and Asia. As a result, the already under-analysed region appears to have been deprioritised.
Latin America enjoys finally attracting positive attention from a major power. In turning away from diplomacy south of the border, the US has set itself up for a major upset.