News / Asia

    Meager Philippines Aid Could Dent China's Image

    Typhoon survivors rush to get a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Nov. 12, 2013.
    Typhoon survivors rush to get a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Nov. 12, 2013.
    Reuters
    China may have wasted the chance to build goodwill in Southeast Asia with its relatively paltry donation to the Philippines in the wake of a devastating typhoon, especially with the United States sending an aircraft carrier and Japan ramping up aid.
     
    The world's second-largest economy is a growing investor in Southeast Asia, where it is vying with the United States and Japan for influence. But China's assertiveness in pressing its claim to the disputed South China Sea has strained ties with several regional countries, most notably the Philippines.
     
    China's government has promised $100,000 in aid to Manila, along with another $100,000 through the Chinese Red Cross - far less than pledged by other economic heavyweights.
     
    Japan has offered $10 million in aid and is sending in an emergency relief team, for instance, while Australia has donated $9.6 million.
     
    “The Chinese leadership has missed an opportunity to show its magnanimity,” said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong who focuses on China's ties with Southeast Asia. “While still offering aid to the typhoon victims, it certainly reflects the unsatisfactory state of relations (with Manila).”
     
    China's ties with the Philippines are already fragile as a decades-old territorial squabble over the South China Sea enters a more contentious chapter, with claimant nations spreading deeper into disputed waters in search of energy supplies, while building up their navies.
     
    Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea, making it one of the region's biggest flashpoints.
     
    The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-nation grouping that includes the Philippines, has been talking to China about a binding code of conduct in South China Sea to ease the friction, but Beijing's frugal aid hints at a deeply entrenched rivalry that could make forging consensus difficult.
     
    Even China's state-run Global Times newspaper, known for its nationalistic and often hawkish editorial views, expressed concern about the impact on Beijing's international standing.
     
    “China, as a responsible power, should participate in relief operations to assist a disaster-stricken neighboring country, no matter whether it's friendly or not,” the paper said in a commentary.
     
    “China's international image is of vital importance to its interests. If it snubs Manila this time, China will suffer great losses.”
     
    • An aerial image taken from a Philippine Air Force helicopter shows the devastation of the first landfall by typhoon Haiyan in Guiuan, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines, Nov. 11, 2013.
    • Survivors fill the streets as they line up to get supplies in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Nov. 11, 2013.
    • A survivor writes a call for help, Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Nov. 11, 2013.
    • Survivors pass by two large boats that were washed ashore by strong waves caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Nov. 10, 2013.
    • A resident walks by remains of houses after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines on Nov. 9, 2013
    • Survivors assess the damage after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines, Nov. 9, 2013.
    • Tacloban Airport is covered by debris after powerful Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban city, in Leyte province in central Philippines, Nov. 9, 2013.
    • Residents go on their daily business Nov. 9, 2013, following a powerful typhoon that hit Tacloban city, in Leyte province, central Philippines.
    • A fisherman carries his net after making it safely back to shore in the fishing village after a strong winds from Typhoon Haiyan battered Bayog town in Los Banos, Laguna city, south of Manila, Nov. 8, 2013. 
    • A man walks past a tree uprooted by strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan that hit Cebu city, central Philippines, Nov. 8, 2013. 
    • A mother takes refuge with her children as Typhoon Haiyan hits Cebu city, central Philippines, Nov. 8, 2013.

    Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines on Friday and flattened the city of Tacloban, where officials fear 10,000 people died. Officials fear the toll could rise sharply as rescuers reach more isolated towns.
     
    Overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, the Philippines has sought international assistance.
     
    The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, carrying about 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, will arrive this week after setting sail from Hong Kong on Tuesday. It has been joined by four other U.S. Navy ships.
     
    The United States is also providing $20 million in immediate aid. Japan said it will give $10 million and send a small number of soldiers and medical personnel.
     
    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China would consider more aid as the situation developed, but did not say why Beijing had offered less than other countries.
     
    “China has also suffered from the disaster, so we very much understand and sympathize with the current hardships that the Philippine people are facing,” Qin told a regular briefing, referring to the deaths of at least seven people and $734 million in economic losses when the much-weakened storm swiped China's southern provinces. “We are willing to consider providing more support and aid within our capacity as it goes.”
     
    Lye Liang Fook of the East Asian Institute in Singapore said it was impossible to separate China's anger over territorial claims from the question of disaster relief.
     
    “Politically there is a lack of trust, and under the circumstances, the fact that China is willing to extend aid is quite significant,” he said. “The two issues are linked to each other.”
     
    Comments on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, overwhelmingly opposed China giving aid to the Philippines.
     
    “For God's sake, give them nothing,” wrote one user. “We've given them enough in the past.”
     
    Cheng said public sentiment would factor into China's decision.
     
    “I certainly think that relief and aid for natural disasters should not be affected by political relations. But the Chinese authorities are handicapped by domestic nationalist feelings as well,” he said. “China should have used the opportunity to improve its image.”

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mimi from: Cebu, Philippines
    November 13, 2013 6:57 AM
    We are profoundly moved by the generosity of the people all over the world. Different countries responded without hesitation and we will be forever grateful for that. Nevertheless, I would like to specially mention the U.S.A. for your laborious effort ever since Saturday after the typhoon strucked us. Your immediate response moved our souls deeply. Your labors are never in vain and we may not be able to repay you but we will keep you in our prayers that GOD will bless you more. Japan, your help was also overwhelming, specially the medical team that bravely meet the tropical depression last night in order to help the distraught families in Leyte.Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

    by: Anonymous
    November 12, 2013 9:13 PM
    This is nothing new China only care about itself no one else, people need to read China history they only take, give is not in their dictionary.

    by: Anonymous
    November 12, 2013 7:06 PM
    The old proverb still applies here, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." These people are not poor just today before the Typhoon. They did not look malnourished just yesterday. They have been poor for a many generations. What did the Philippines government not do? Poor people will never get enough aid. I find it people give excuses in the name of charity are extreme liberals
    In Response

    by: Michael from: USA
    November 13, 2013 12:19 AM
    I have to reply
    your coments show an utter lack of compassion or awareness
    these poor people were hit by a devastating storm that killed thousands and left at least / miilion homeless
    and your assertion they did not look malnourished?
    Th Filipinos are a hard working soulfull people and i for one believe they deserve all the help we can muster
    Shame as if they brought this calamity upon themselves? Shame Mabuhay to all the wonderful people of the Philippines

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