Global Barrel of Laughs

If you don’t already check Setty’s blog compulsively, here’s another reason to. Setty’s especially good at ferreting out online material that ought to be getting much more exposure than it does, and this one’s a real find: a three part series by gringo academic Tom O’Donnell (part 2 here, part 3 here) on the Venezuela-China oil relationship that’s puro lomito.

The reporting is in depth, the nuance and detail lovely, and the picture he paints is beautifully counterintuitive. (The copy-editing, on the other hand, is terrible.)

Turns out the Chinese themselves perceive their oil relationship with Venezuela very very differently from the way the rest of us tend to see it: years of delays and misspent bribes have dialed up Chinese frustration so much that they now feel forced to play hardball in ways they’d spent years avoiding.

It’s always a bit arbitrary picking out one paragraph to highlight out of such a thorough piece. But the part that caught my eye the most is O’Donnell’s contention that the Chinese are so annoyed at chavista fecklessness that, against all odds, the Government of the People’s Republic of China has become a champion of transparency in Venezuela:

The limit, however, for Beijing’s patience finally seems to have arrived around March 2010, and especially by the end of 2010, as the Chinese continued to observe the complete lack of Bolivarian Venezuela’s transparency in spending Chinese money.  This has been a very crucial factor in finally really seriously changing China’s attitudes towards Venezuela in the past year.  They had already been making demands on President Chavez to change his behavior vis-a-vis things he does that tend to provoke the Americans, but now they wanted to also know what had happened to all their money.  Much more specific demands – for transparency and accountability, as well as access to oil contracts – were then placed on Caracas.  With this, Chinese fortunes and participation in the Venezuelan oil sector finally seem to be on a trajectory towards palpable improvement in the last several months.

Really, you need to read the whole thing.

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