China must better aid typhoon victims

Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor Credit: Braden Kelner/Forum Editor
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On Nov. 11, Typhoon Haiyan ravaged and tore into the Philippines. The typhoon made landfall near the city of Tacloban, and some estimates point to an initial death toll of 4,400, largely from Tacloban. Haiyan stormed through the Philippines and damaged many other cities, whose people are worried that aid will come only to Tacloban.

Some foreign powers are trying to help the Philippines. The Philippines occupy a strategic area in the Pacific, far enough to elude China’s influences but close enough for conflict. Earlier in August, China and the Philippines argued over control of a small group of islands called the Spratly Islands. The Philippines, along with Japan and South Korea, have been on the receiving end of China’s recent aggressive claims for surrounding islands in the South China Sea.

While China has the ability to help those affected in the Philippines, the nation has made itself seem like a sulking rival, seemingly unable to help out when, in reality, it is able to.

In response to Typhoon Haiyan, the United States sent the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, filled to the brim with relief supplies, while Japan is set to embark on its largest relief effort yet. Even the British, who don’t directly touch the Pacific, are sending their own aircraft carrier.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are donating a total of $1.6 million, far less than any of the above operations. This figure only appeared after their initial donation of $100,000 — a measly sum for such a large, prosperous country. The donation contrasts with China’s major investments in a few select African countries and their large relief effort after the Pakistan earthquake.

China’s initial sum of $100,000 is a reflection of current relations with the Philippines and will reflect horribly on their part. Moreover, the only substantial aid reaching the Philippines is from the Red Cross and other countries right now. China’s strategic location would allow the country to give the Philippines the most aid.

Additionally, if Chinese aid workers were willing, they could perform relief work of the highest order. China would benefit from these efforts because they would look like strong leaders and could help to diffuse territorial disputes and tension.

The U.S. once colonized the Philippines, and ill-feeling toward the U.S. has largely abated within the country since then. The U.S. may be trying to maintain these now good relations with its sizable aid package and impressive warship, which carries helicopters to deliver food and medical kits to remote areas.

China, however, seems to be happy with where relations stand with the Philippines. Hence, it has contributed a negligible amount of aid, adding to chilled relations. Generally for countries, especially those that go through monsoon season on a regular basis (like Singapore, Malaysia, and China), a notable way to aid the Philippines would be to send workers, engineers, and architects to further enforce and strengthen any infrastructure that remains. These efforts would help the Philippines minimize storm-related damage in the future. However, China has not provided this type of aid.

In the next few days, it will be intriguing to see how China continues to respond. Will the change in aid from an initial $100,000 donation to a $1.6 million donation reflect an upward trend in aid sent to the Philippines, or was the increased donation the last of China’s aid?