Chinese aid, trade and investment and the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo

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The relationship between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the People's Republic of China (China) has evolved significantly during the past 40 years. From a largely strategic alliance favouring a more prominent position for China in Africa and on the world stage and symbolic development assistance in support of Mobutu's regime, it has developed into a business partnership featuring thriving bilateral commerce and increasing private investment by Chinese multinationals. During the past decade, the DRC has become the target of a number of major investments from China, many targeting expansion of transportation infrastructures and extractive industries, including in forested areas. There are indications that Chinese interests in agricultural development, including development of oil palm plantations, is also growing. Given the great importance of conserving and sustainably managing the DRC's extensive forest ecosystems, which are vulnerable to development pressures and extractive activities, as well as the continued severe economic disadvantages experienced by most of the Congolese population, research is needed to gauge the impacts of increased trade and investment and to assess the efficacy of existing institutions in governing the related environmental and social impacts. As part of its project ‘Chinese trade and investment in Africa', the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and its partners are working to assess the impacts of trade and investment on African forests and people and to identify and evaluate the efficacy of institutions at the international, national and subnational levels to manage and mitigate those impacts. This working paper is a background document from that project, based on a review of the literature and documents collected in the field and from the internet as well as on responses from key informant interviews conducted in 2010 in andaround Kinshasa, DRC, and in several locations in Katanga and Equateur Provinces.

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