China-Democratic Republic of Congo Relations: From a Beneficial to a Developmental Cooperation

by Claude Kabemba

Abstract

The relationship between China and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) relations provides a unique case to test China’s win-win policy with African countries. A recurring question is how can a win-win partnership be realized between very unequal partners? China is a global power ideologically, economically, militarily, and financially. The DRC is known for its weak state characterized by years of instability and mismanagement. China claims to pursue a win-win relation with the DRC. The DRC’s political economy has been dominated since 1885 by an economy of extraction built on the legacy of the Free State. According to this legacy, the DRC serves as an open source of capital accumulation for foreign powers. This pattern of colonial extraction, where the DRC is a source of cheap strategic mineral resources that serve the narrow interest of Western capital remains largely unchanged today. China entered the DRC with a promise to break with this exploitative economic relation. China has acquired financial and economic strengths, which it is using to position itself as an alternative to the West. The paper discusses whether or not a win-win cooperative relationship is possible between China and the DRC.

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Claude Kabemba is Director of Southern Africa Resource Watch, a project of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. He is co-editor with Garth Shelton of Win-Win Partnership? China, Southern Africa and Extractive Industries (2012) and the author of recent chapters on “Mining in Post-Apartheid South Africa” and “Democratic Republic of Congo: The Land of Humanitarian Interventions.”