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In journalism, language matters

27 110 57

“China: Big spender or loan shark?”

That is the title the BBC chose for its correspondent Celia Hatton’s report on a newly released assessment of Chinese lending habits. “China hands out at least twice as much development money as the US and other major powers, new evidence shows, with most of it coming in the form of risky high-interest loans from Chinese state banks,” it goes on to say adding that “critics fear that the high-interest loans funding many Chinese projects are saddling unsuspecting populations in sky-high debt”.

Let us pause there for a minute and think about the terms used to describe the activity. Chinese grants and loans are lumped together as “development money” which is loaned out. Yet helpfully, the BBC tells us that “not too long ago China received foreign aid”. Nowhere in Celia Hatton’s report is Chinese “development money” described as “aid”. What is the difference?

Another BBC report from four years ago may be helpful. In it, Ms Hatton, reporting on the uncovering of “China’s secret aid empire”, writes that Chinese money does not qualify for “the traditional definition of aid that’s agreed upon by all Western industrialised countries” because Western........

© Al Jazeera

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