Beijing: China on Wednesday hailed late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a "great leader and great friend" and promised to continue its "time-honoured" friendship with the oil-rich Latin American country.
"President Chavez was a great leader of Venezuela as well as a great friend of the Chinese people and has made an important contribution to friendly and cooperative relations between China and Venezuela," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said while reacting to the death of Chavez.
President Hu Jintao and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping had sent personal messages of condolence to Venezuela`s interim President Nicolas Maduro, following the 58-year-old leader`s death after battling cancer, Hua said.
The CPC, the Chinese government and people highly treasure the time-honoured friendship between the two countries, according to the spokeswoman.
"Venezuela is an important country in the region and also a good friend of China," Hua said. She added that China is ready to continue its work with Venezuela to deepen bilateral strategic partnership.
Chavez, known for his leftist ideals, pushed for close ties with Beijing`s Communist party in a bid to reduce Venezuela`s reliance on the United States. Venezuela sells some 640,000 barrels of oil per day to China and Beijing has provided at least USD 30 billion in credit to Caracas.