State media: China ‘should help typhoon-ravaged Philippines despite row’
China has offered US$100,000 in aid to the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan
China should put aside its territorial dispute with the Philippines to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan, state-run media said on Tuesday, adding that doing so was in Beijing’s best interests.
The two countries are embroiled in a long-standing dispute over islands in the strategically vital South China Sea - which Beijing claims almost in its entirety - and Manila says Chinese vessels have occupied the Scarborough Shoal, which it claims, since last year.
Watch: US marines join Philippines typhoon rescue, looters abound
China, the world's second largest economy, has offered to give the Philippines US$100,000 (HK$775,000) for relief efforts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang announced on Monday.
It is the same amount as Vietnam, itself now battling to limit the damage from the storm which made landfall yesterday. Meanwhile, the US has sent US$20 million in aid, while Australia and Britain have pledged US$9.38 million and US$9.6 million respectively.
The United Nations, Japan and the United States mobilised emergency relief teams and supplies after one of the biggest storms on record devastated the central Philippines on Friday. China's offer did not include personnel, but Qin said Beijing could proceed with further assistance after consulting Manila and relief agencies.
The United States has sent 90 marines, aircraft, emergency shelters and 55 tonnes of emergency food. Tokyo is sending a team of 25 medical personnel.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Tuesday the territorial row should not affect such decisions.
“It’s a must to aid typhoon victims in the Philippines,” the paper, which is close to the ruling Communist party, said.
But it added: “China’s international image is of vital importance to its interests. If it snubs Manila this time, China will suffer great losses.”
“Aid to the typhoon victims is a kind of humanitarian aid, which is totally different from foreign aid in the past made out of geopolitical concerns,” it said.
The donation comes a month to the day after China criticised the US for giving tacit backing to the Philippines’ stance after Manila had launched an arbitration case with the United Nations to challenge the legal validity of Beijing’s sweeping claims over the resource-rich South China Sea.
China’s decades-long boom has seen it become the world’s second-largest economy but Beijing has long been accused of using trade and aid to further its own agenda, particularly in Africa, where its influence has rocketed in recent years, and also in much of Southeast Asia.
It says it is open to friendly relations.
Video: Relief efforts intensify in Tacloban
As well as China and the Philippines, other countries also have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, and tensions have risen sharply in recent years, with Manila and Hanoi accusing Beijing of increasing aggressiveness.
Typhoon Haiyan hit China after devastating parts of the Philippines, killing more than 10,000 people in one Philippine province alone. Reports out of China say the storm killed at least seven people in the southern province of Hainan and Guangxi region.
Despite an official death toll of 1,774, authorities in the Philippines fear that the toll could climb to more than 10,000. At least two million people in 41 provinces were affected by the disaster, with tens of thousands of houses destroyed.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national calamity, allowing the government to use state funds for relief and rehabilitation and control prices.
Beijing's offer highlights the fine diplomatic line it needs to walk amid its ongoing territorial dispute with Manila in the South China Sea.
"Given the tense relationship between China and the Philippines, resentment among Chinese may be triggered if Beijing helps the Philippines," said Du Jifeng , a Southeast Asian affairs analyst at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Qin denied any link between the aid and its relations with the Philippines.
Vietnam, despite itself being hit by a weakened Haiyan, offered emergency aid of US$100,000. It said it "stands by the Philippine people in this difficult situation".
Reaction to the news of China's donation among Chinese web users was mixed on Tuesday, with many commenting that Beijing should not have donated any aid.
"The Chinese government should not have offered aid in the first place to a country that’s unfriendly or even hostile to China. Instead, grass-roots organizations and individuals should be encouraged to offer aid," wrote a microblogger by the name of Mituofo.
"China has so many impoverished areas that could use the aid money," said another called C_Q77
One commenter on the Global Times website wrote: “So many of China’s own children are starving and don’t have enough clothes to wear - Why would the government pretend to be a good guy to other countries while turning a blind eye to your own people?”
Agence France-Presse, Reuters
Video: More scenes of Philippines devastation