News

China's Tsunami Aid Package Highlights Beijing's Rising Profile

Luis Ramirez

China this month pledged a total of $83 million in aid to Asian nations devastated by last month's tsunami, embarking on what Beijing says is its largest foreign relief operation ever. The amount is small when compared to that contributed by richer nations such as Australia, Japan, and the United States. But the package highlights China's growing profile in Southeast Asia.

The $83 million figure may be small when compared to the half-billion dollars that Japan's government is donating and the 350 million pledged by the United States. But Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao says China is helping to the best of its ability as a poor, developing country.

Many Chinese until now have viewed their nation as an aid recipient, not a donor. However, rising incomes pushed by China's economic boom have made it possible for the nation to make its unprecedented aid donations, both public and private.

The Chinese Red Cross says it has collected $12 million, the most money ever gathered in China for an overseas relief effort. Rich and poor are giving, and donations range from $1.2 million from a software entrepreneur to one dollar from this 50-year-old woman who works as a housemaid in Beijing.

"My heart was so sad when I saw this natural disaster could kill so many people. This disaster is so big that, even though I do not have that much money, I had to give a little donation. I had to help," she said.

Analysts say China stands to gain substantially from its gestures of good will to its Southeast Asian neighbors, many of which are leery that China is on its way to dominating regional trade.

Politics professor Paul Harris at Hong Kong's Lingnan University says so Beijing is exerting soft power in the region.

"It's trying to convey the message that we're a normal great power. The so-called peaceful rise of China is not something to be concerned about, and we are concerned about our neighbors. We are a part of this East Asian community and you can trust us and view us as your friend,'" prof. Harris said.

Southeast Asia has historically been wary of its giant neighbor to the north.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, was originally founded to shield the region from Chinese Communist expansionism. However, the relationship has changed dramatically over the years. Recently, trade between China and ASEAN has risen by 20 percent each year, reaching an estimated $100 billion in 2004.

Li Nan is a researcher at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University who says China has been careful not to show itself as being overly aggressive toward its neighbors.

"There is a high level of sensitivity on the issue of sovereignty," he said. "So in essence, China has been very sensitive about the issue to the point it did not deploy substantial military capabilities for tsunami relief."

China's military aid has been limited to only 35 military personnel, mostly medics and engineers, sent to Indonesia.

There are analysts who note the modest military contribution is also due to China's limited capabilities in long-distance operations.

However, some criticize China, saying its contribution of $83 million is too small for a nation of its size with a booming economy. At the same time, Chinese leaders are under pressure from some of its citizens at home who wonder aloud why China, with millions of people living on less than a dollar a day, is giving aid at all.

Politics professor Lai Hongyi at the National University of Singapore says the Chinese leadership has taken a measured approach.

"I think the Chinese government also has realized that the nation's level of development does not justify a huge amount and they're not giving a huge amount of aid, just giving a large amount," he said. "So overall, it's a good balance between giving too much and, regarding its economic capacity and its level of development, or being stingy if its neighbors are in deep trouble and need a lot of help."

Amid international criticism for its comparatively low contribution, Chinese newspapers have been rife with editorials lashing back at rich countries that have made substantial donations, especially the United States and Japan, nations that have historically wielded influence in the region.

One editorial written by a scholar at a state-sponsored policy institute accused industrialized nations of playing a game of political chess in the tsunami affected zone.

Others have blasted the United States and Japan for using their militaries as part of their relief operations in the region. Editorials have accused both nations of working to consolidate their regional influence under the guise of providing aid.

At the same time, Indonesia, hardest hit by the tsunami, has repeatedly thanked foreign nations for deploying military help so quickly, as large navies and air forces have the necessary equipment in abundance to provide clean water, electricity and deliver food and medical supplies to inaccessible and devastated regions.

 

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs