Typhoon Haiyan

State media defend China's meagre aid for Philippine typhoon victims

Territorial tensions and US motives in region cited among the justifications for China's meagre aid for storm-hit Philippines

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 3:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 8:23am

Beijing's initial US$200,000 donation to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines fell far short of both China's economic clout and its ambitions to be a major world player.

Some in the international media saw the meagre donation as a needless slight to a suffering rival - even if Manila has been sparring with Beijing over the sovereignty of the Scarborough Shoal. Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 3,600 Filipinos.

Critics questioned whether China was ready to share the world stage with players such as Australia, Japan and the United States, which pledged US$28 million, US$10 million and US$20 million, respectively.

The US, which has been rebuilding its military ties with the Philippines amid regional territorial disputes, sent an aircraft carrier group to aid in relief efforts.

Faced with the obvious discrepancy in aid, most of the state-controlled Chinese media sprung to the administration's defence. Outlets argued that China's contribution, which included US$100,000 from the Red Cross Society of China, was sufficient in light of the current diplomatic tensions and its ability to divert resources overseas while coping with big problems at home.

"Any donation should be in line with public sentiment in the donor's country as well as its capacity [to donate], and the US$100,000 to the Philippines is a reflection of both," the Legal Daily said. Its editorial said Beijing often showed too much generosity abroad to impress the international community. Many in China might object if Beijing showered aid on Manila.

The Legal Daily cited the ongoing territorial dispute between Beijing and Manila, as well as the Philippines' refusal to provide a satisfactory level of compensation to the families of eight Hong Kong tourists killed during hostage-taking on a tour bus in Manila three years ago.

An online poll conducted by the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People's Daily, said that nearly 92 per cent of the 5,000 internet users surveyed opposed giving more to the Philippines.

An editorial in the Global Times noted that the Philippines had yet to show sufficient restraint over the South China Sea and that Beijing deserved credit for offering any aid at all.

The paper also saw a "strong political motive" behind the United States' generosity, in light of its ongoing "pivot" towards the Asia-Pacific region.

"It's widely known that the Philippines has served as a pawn of the US to make trouble for China in the South China Sea," the paper said. "So the sudden increase in the amount of the donation this time around is a political gesture."

Still, others questioned the wisdom of Beijing's tough love. The online edition of the Beijing Morning Post on Thursday summed up criticism from international media outlets over China's donation, citing warnings that the move might damage China's efforts to build goodwill in the region.

In particular, it called attention to an article in the online edition of Foreign Affairs attributing Beijing's indifference towards the Philippines calamity to the country's policy of trying to isolate its neighbour.

The paper also noted a comparison in The New York Times between the US$1.5 million China gave Pakistan in the aftermath of an earthquake that killed 500 in September.

The online edition of the China Youth Daily cautioned against rushing to condemn Beijing, particularly since the country was still assessing its own damage from Haiyan.

"[Beijing] could still offer a hand to the Philippines, so it has nothing to be blamed about from a humanitarian point of view," the paper said. "The ... donation was just tentative and depending on severity of damage China has suffered"

That turned out to be prophetic. On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country would provide an additional 10 million yuan (HK$12.6 million) worth of blankets, tents and materials to aid relief in the Philippines.