China’s official state press agency Xinhua published an article early last week celebrating that over 80% of Cambodia’s rural population now has access to clean water and sanitation. This is due, apparently, in large part to China-aided development projects. The pro-Cambodian government Khmer Times published a similar article.
These types of articles — lauding China for bringing clean water to rural Cambodia — are relatively common in Chinese and Cambodian state media alike. Ironically, but unsurprisingly, another similarity is what Chinese and Cambodian state media both leave out: the widespread and serious environmental harm that Chinese development has brought to Cambodia.
Xinhua, for one, has published several articles celebrating China-aided rural water supply projects. One headline reads, “Crystal clear, Cambodians thank China for wells, ponds of healthy water.” Another Xinhua story from 2020 bears the headline, “Chinese clean water project helps improve livelihood in Cambodia’s rural areas.”