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.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs