Chinese 'loan-for-oil' deals in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador : local concerns and perceptions
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China's international behaviour has been the subject of scholarly attention in the past decade. The implementation of the 'going out' strategy of international relations in Latin American countries has been inserted in the mainstream debate about China's rise. The Chinese national oil companies' 'loan-for-oil' deals and other business projects in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador are good examples of the Chinese quest for geopolitical interests in the region. The local perception has drawn from the leading assumptions about China and China's international behaviour embedded in the Latin American hybrid perspective of international relations, namely that China is a unitary and homogeneous actor with a top-down hierarchy of command from the Chinese government. However, these premises are debatable. The examples examined in the cases of Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador show two constant elements, the presence of a plurality of Chinese actors and their interdependent relationship with the Chinese government. Yet, the predominant actors in the local debates about China's influence have not been swayed by these findings in a significant way. Their perception of China's international behaviour continues to hold a general negative image of China. This study explores the implementation of the 'going out' strategy through the Chinese national oil companies' business practices in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador to illustrate the presence of a plurality of Chinese actors and their interdependent relationship with the Chinese government in this endeavour. The study calls attention to these neglected elements in the prevailing local perception of Chinese international behaviour, with the aim of contributing to international debates on the topic that could potentially improve Chinese international image and strengthen the bilateral partnerships.
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