In the olden days of Latin American financial turmoil, the emergency creditors at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank insisted on tying strings to their money. They were wary of pouring fresh cash into a lost cause. They wanted "structural adjustments," meaning belt-tightening austerity measures.

Curiously, that is not what happened this week when Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro went to Beijing, hat in hand, and secured a new $5 billion loan. The re-up looked as easy as a swipe at a drive-thru ATM.

The funds came with no apparent insistence that Maduro fix his oil-dependent government's hemorrhaging finances, or lift the foreign exchange controls that have contributed to one of the world's highest inflation rates and chronic shortages of consumer goods in Venezuela.

Beijing appears to be one of the last redoubts of confidence in Maduro's survival. With global oil prices in the dumps, the Venezuelan leader's approval rating is in the low 20s, and his United Socialist Party is facing a rout in Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. But Chinese President Xi Jinping hasn't shut off the spigot.

Why, then, is China willing to double down on the survival of the Maduro government, when he has disavowed austerity measures and macroeconomic adjustments?

One reason, according to Kevin Gallagher, author of "The China Triangle:  Latin America's China Boom and the Fate of the Washington Consensus," is that Beijing has already sunk more than $50 billion into Venezuela's socialist government since 2007.

"They clearly stand to lose the whole $50 billion-plus if the Venezuelan economy goes down the tubes," Gallagher said, adding that Maduro had become "more of a liability than an asset" for China.

"You hope another $5 billion can increase your chances that things can be turned around and you can recoup your losses," he said.

Of those loans, repaid in shipments of Venezuelan oil, at least $20 billion remains outstanding, according to the Economist.

Still, Venezuela has the world's largest proven reserves of oil, so it has no trouble offering collateral to its creditors. Its output has been slumping, and Maduro said the new line of credit from Beijing will be aimed at reversing the decline. Venezuela ships about 700,000 barrels a day to China; Maduro said the new target will be 1 million barrels.

"Today we can say China and Venezuela are more united than ever," Maduro said Wednesday as he signed the new agreements, which also included gold mining concessions for Chinese firms.

China's economy is slowing and its stock market is in turmoil, but the new credit line for Maduro suggest that Beijing plans to stick to its broader strategy of securing access to low-cost energy and imported resources. Additional benefits would come for Chinese companies that receive contracts to perform infrastructure work in Venezuela.

Francisco Monaldi, a Venezuelan economist and oil expert at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the terms of the loan have yet to be disclosed, and it's not clear whether the $5 billion will be freely available to help Maduro alleviate his short-term financial needs.

If the money is designated specifically for long-term infrastructure projects to boost Venezuelan crude output, then it's not the kind of liquid injection that would cover Maduro's short-term need to pay salaries and meet other obligations.

But a fresh line of oil-backed credit would be "a different story," Monaldi said, "because it constitutes a lifeline for the regime in the short run, in an election year."

"It would be riskier and more likely to be renegotiated in the future," he said. "The details matter. Is it possible to use freely as part of the international reserves? Is it only to buy Chinese goods?"

Even if the $5 billion goes into the government's coffers, it may not be enough to rescue Maduro's party at the polls. And if the opposition takes control of parliament, it could attempt a recall vote against Maduro next year at the midway point of his presidential term.

Still, Gallagher cautions that if Venezuela's opposition returns to power and inherits a financial mess, it may be just as likely to choose Chinese banks over structural adjustment measures demanded by global lending institutions.

"I think the opposition will honor China debts," he said. "If they got in power, they would welcome real money with few strings attached, instead of having to put the people that ushered them into office under an IMF austerity program."

Maduro also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing on the sidelines of a military parade commemorating the end of World War II in Asia. Although Maduro has been calling for cuts in oil production to boost prices, the two men did not reach an agreement, according to the news agency Reuters, and a Kremlin spokesman said Putin told Venezuela's leader that oil prices would be shaped by the "market process."

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