New World Order?
How do investors interested in Latin America view Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez landing in Beijing? Would they view it as a flamboyant fanatic’s desperate last leg of a world tour made to prop up a failing PDVSA? Would they view it as the final stop on a very successful and diverse investment campaign for Latin American energy? Furthermore, do all these pictures of smiling emerging market leaders shaking hands with smiling emerging market leaders symbolize the rise of what Hugo Chavez entitled a “new world order.”
The frequent U.S. critic, who met with China’s president and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao earlier today, told reporters that power in the world was shifting from America to nations such as Iran, Japan and China. ”We are creating a new world, a balanced world. A new world order, a multipolar world,” Chavez said after arriving Tuesday evening. “The unipolar world has collapsed. The power of the U.S. empire has collapsed. Everyday, the new poles of world power are becoming stronger. Beijing, Tokyo, Tehran … it’s moving toward the East and toward the South.”
Chavez continued his theme during his meeting with Hu, telling the President that “no one can be ignorant that the center of gravity of the world has moved to Beijing. During the financial crisis, China’s actions have been highly positive for the world. Currently, China is the biggest motor driving the world amidst this crisis of international capitalism“.
Beijing’s state-run industries are eager to use Venezuela as a jumping-off point for their entry into South America. Chinese companies in the mining and petroleum sector have been especially eager to secure South American mineral resources. Joint development projects have been initiated in areas including oil production, infrastructure and agriculture.
However, both Beijing and Caracas share similar traits that don’t bode well for foreign investment - Hu and Chavez have established growing energy-investment dealings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, their nations have nationalized industries, a history of human rights travesties, a lack of government transparency and little to no local inclination to encourage autonomous free-enterprise. These traits can also be found in some of the poorest nations in the world, and, with Venezuela in particular, possibly result in a future of further civil disobedience.
For all of his Anti-American rhetoric, most recently referring to the US as the old “empire“, Chavez is still dependent on the US to buy about half of his country’s oil. China is still heavily invested and indeed dependent on the US dollar. The relationships between both China and Venezuela to the US, to some degree, are stable for investment return. However, one must be wary of the good with the bad, comprehend the corruption in foreign taxation when initially investing, understand the gray zone that is the rule of law in these emerging markets, and note the great political risk before undertaking serious investment in these two pieces of what Chavez calls the “new world order”.