Regional Asian Politics Play Out in Response to Typhoon Haiyan

U.S. gives $20 million in disaster relief to the Philippines, while China gives only $100,000, showing deep divides in the region.

A U.S. soldier assists an evacuee in Leyte, Philippines, four days after a typhoon devastated the region.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Nov. 12, 2013, 6:16 a.m.

If you want to get a sense of the re­gion­al con­flicts in Asia, look no fur­ther than how China and the United States re­acted to the hor­rif­ic su­per typhoon in the Phil­ip­pines.

The United Na­tions es­tim­ates that 11 mil­lion people were af­fected by the storm, cul­min­at­ing in an 800,000 people dis­placed and an­oth­er 10,000 feared dead. That lat­ter num­ber may de­crease in the com­ing days, with Phil­ip­pine Pres­id­ent Be­nigno Aquino re­cently telling CNN that the num­ber is closer to 2,000 or 2,500 people.

Sur­viv­ors are in des­per­ate need of food, wa­ter, shel­ter, san­it­a­tion, and health ma­ter­i­als. The U.N. has already re­leased $25 mil­lion to as­sist sur­viv­ors, and is ask­ing for more.

That’s where some of the world’s largest eco­nom­ies can help out.

The U.S., an ally of the Phil­ip­pines, is giv­ing $20 mil­lion in hu­man­it­ari­an as­sist­ance, ran­ging from food to med­ic­al needs. Ad­di­tion­ally, the U.S. sent the nuc­le­ar-powered USS George Wash­ing­ton, which car­ries 5,000 sail­ors and 80 air­craft, and four oth­er Navy ships to the coun­try.

The U.S. is also un­of­fi­cially back­ing the Phil­ip­pines over China in its pur­suit to pro­tect its claim to re­source-rich is­lands in the South China Sea. Oth­er coun­tries, in­clud­ing Vi­et­nam, Taiwan, Malay­sia and Brunei, are in a sim­il­ar dis­pute with China over those is­lands.

For its part, China is only giv­ing the Phil­ip­pines $100,000 for hu­man­it­ari­an re­lief.

Com­pare this fig­ure to the amount of hu­man­it­ari­an re­lief Beijing has giv­en oth­er re­gion­al coun­tries dur­ing sep­ar­ate dis­asters. In Septem­ber, China pledged $5 mil­lion to Pakistan after a deadly earth­quake.

Beijing is hear­ing cri­ti­cism from its own state-run news­pa­per the Glob­al Times, which wrote in an ed­it­or­i­al:

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.

Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, two oth­er al­lies of the U.S., have also pledged hu­man­it­ari­an as­sist­ance to the Phil­ip­pines, giv­ing $10 mil­lion and $9.6 mil­lion, re­spect­ively.

If China wants to claim it can be a world lead­er, provid­ing little in hu­man­it­ari­an aid to a re­gion­al neigh­bor dur­ing times of dis­aster might hurt its case.

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