China is awaiting official word from Manila after it offered to send rescue and medical teams to the Philippines, just over one week after a devastating typhoon struck the island nation.
The Chinese government initially offered US$100,000 to help in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan but raised its offer by a further US$1.6 million on Thursday.
Given its economic power, the pledges were criticised as meagre and seen as driven by a bitter feud with Manila about overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
“In light of the current actual needs of the typhoon-hit areas, the Chinese government is ready to dispatch the emergency medical assistance team on humanitarian grounds,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
In Manila, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said China’s offer was appreciated. “We are promptly referring China’s offer to our senior officials in the Department of Health for a timely assessment of our current and future medical needs in the affected areas.”
Beijing’s offer of aid has been dwarfed by contributions from the US, Britain and Japan. But presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said they were not insulted that aid from China was not greater. “We are not in a position to say this is too small or too big. Whatever it is, we are grateful for the gesture,” he told the South China Morning Post.
Zhuang Guotu, director of the Southeast Asian Studies Centre at Xiamen University, said China was slow to react because it lacked experience in dealing with international relief.
He added: “China and the Philippines have no political trust, and their disputes in the South China Sea have left the relationship more strained recently.”
He Maochun, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, said Beijing was waiting until a full picture of the disaster emerged.
“It has to deal with domestic disaster relief and then consider its global duties,” He said. Haiyan also struck southern China, with seven deaths recorded in Hainan and Guangxi.
Mainland internet users have objected strongly to Bejing providing aid.
One user on Tianya.com, a popular online discussion forum, said: “The Philippines hates us no matter how much money we give to them. It’s better for our government to leave the donations to the poor kids who can’t afford to go to school.”
That contrasts with Hong Kong, which saw a number of fund-raising activities over the weekend. Filipinos urged Hongkongers to give generously, while hundreds attended memorial services to seek comfort in prayer.
Video: Aid effort intensifies in Philippines