Philippines, PRC & Geopolitics of Disaster Relief

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 11/13/2013 01:49:00 PM
[I wish to express my appreciation to those who have gotten in touch to check whether I have been affected by the recent storm in the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan did not really pass through the capital, Manila, where I am currently based. Nevertheless, any help you can extend to my compatriots is most welcome.] Typhoon Haiyan is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit land. While storms of its magnitude are frequent in the open ocean, it is relatively rate that one reaching over 300 kph hits populated areas. The devastation is enormous, and the UN estimates that $301 million is needed to rehabilitate affected regions over a preliminary six-month period:
The United Nations today appealed for nearly a third of a billion dollars to provide humanitarian assistance to typhoon hit regions of the Philippines where aid workers are labouring around the clock to get in urgently needed survival supplies, such as food, clean water, shelter and basic medicines. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos launched the $301 million flash appeal from Manila, the capital, where she is surveying the damage by Typhoon Haiyan which ripped through nine regions in south-east Asia over the weekend. 
However, many are noticing the comparatively small amount China is pledging to give to its neighbor ($200,000 total):
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.
While the merely state-affiliated publication Global Times usually holds the more jingoistic views compared to the truly official Xinhua news agency or China Daily, this time it expresses concern about how the rest of the region will view the PRC's comparative stinginess. A feint, perhaps? It is still notable that such an opinion was made. Especially notable is the recognition of contributions Filipino-Chinese have made when the PRC has been affected by similar calamities:
China shouldn't be absent in the international relief efforts. Instead, it should offer help within the compass of its power, given China's international position and its location of facing the Philippines across the sea. It's a must to aid typhoon victims in the Philippines despite Haiyan having also battered China's coastal regions and bilateral tensions over the South China Sea disputes.

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. 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. Overseas Chinese in the Philippines played an active part to mobilize relief efforts when the mainland was in disaster. It's legitimate that we provide assistance when they suffer.  
Still, China's pledge is indicative of certain things. Its leadership is not quite pleased with the Philippines, having disinvited the latter's president in recent months and now this. These expressions are also conditioned on playing to public opinion: having portrayed the Philippines as "the enemy" over the South China Sea spat to the Chinese public, it is hard to back down on the tough rhetoric against the Philippines by offering millions in disaster relief.

Asian politics are notable for the long memories of those concerned. If so, the Philippines may better remember those who helped it during its time of need. For instance, that Putin guy might not be so mean towards other developing nations...

UPDATE: China has since upped its commitment to $1.64 million, although many are questioning why it has not dispatched its state-of-the-art hospital ship Peace Ark designed for emergencies such as this to the Philippines.