China to step up aid to Philippines amid controversy

November 14, 2013 10:00 am


Residents cover their noses because of the smell of rotting corpses, as they queue for free mobile phone power charging at the city hall in Tacloban/AFP
Residents cover their noses because of the smell of rotting corpses, as they queue for free mobile phone power charging at the city hall in Tacloban/AFP
BEIJING, Nov 14 – China said on Thursday it would increase its aid to the typhoon-pummelled Philippines, after criticism of its initial modest response, but some Chinese web users called for no help at all.

The two countries are embroiled in a longstanding row over islands in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

Manila accuses Beijing of asserting its claims increasingly aggressively and says Chinese vessels have occupied the Scarborough Shoal, which it claims itself, since last year.

China – which has enjoyed a years-long economic boom – announced a $100,000 cash donation on Monday, with a matching one from the Chinese Red Cross, far less than other countries and a move that prompted criticism overseas.

The US magazine Time carried a report Wednesday under the headline “The world’s second largest economy off-loads insultingly small change on a storm-battered Philippines”.

“The Chinese government has been made to look mean-spirited in front of the world community,” said the article.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday that the country decided “just days ago” to provide an additional 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) for relief efforts in the form of blankets, tents and other materials.

“There will be thousands of tents and tens of thousands of blankets,” he told reporters at a regular briefing.

“We hope that these supplies will be delivered to the disaster-stricken areas as soon as possible to show our sympathies with the Philippines.”

Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central islands of the Philippines on Friday, wreaking havoc across a large area.

Chinese media and Internet users – many of whom are intensely nationalistic – were divided on how the country should respond to the disaster.

“If (the Chinese government) was generous to the Philippines, it would hurt the Chinese people completely,” wrote a user with the online handle Old Beijing on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Another user said: “I think what China has done was rational – facts have long showed the wickedness of the Philippine regime. It will not be grateful even if we hand them much money. Instead, it could use the cash to buy weapons from the US to attack us.”

Others argued that China was also a victim of the storm and had its own disaster relief needs at home.

The typhoon brushed three provinces and regions in south China this week, leaving at least 13 dead or missing and 252,000 people displaced, according to the latest official data.

Nevertheless some commentators warned that it was not in China’s best interests to minimise its humanitarian aid to the Philippines.

“A country’s status on the world stage does not only rely on its economic and military strength. It is also determined by how much soft power it can master, which includes its approach to humanitarianism,” said a commentary in the state-run Global Times Thursday.

Qin also played down the online nationalist sentiment, saying that an “overwhelming majority” of Chinese people “understand and sympathise with the sufferings of the Philippines”.


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