China Is Finally Sending Its Massive, World-Class Hospital Ship to the Philippines

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 20 2013 1:46 PM

China Is Finally Sending Its "Peace Ark" to the Philippines

China Peace Ark hospital ship
China's massive, state-of-the-art hospital ship has just been hanging out in Shanghai since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

China has taken a lot of flak for its tepid response to Typhoon Haiyan, which began with a paltry offer of $100,000 in cash. As The Slatest’s Elliot Hannon noted last week, that was less than IKEA had given at the time. Things went downhill from there when a state-run Chinese newspaper accused the disaster-wracked Philippines of “ingratitude” for the token gift. China’s world-class hospital ship—the “Peace Ark”—lingered in a berth in Shanghai as Filipinos perished by the thousands.

The country has since changed its tune a bit, raising its aid offer to $1.4 million. And, as my colleague Joshua Keating points out, China is dealing with some typhoon effects of its own, including some evacuations in the country’s southern regions. Still, few consider that an excuse for a would-be global superpower to stand by while a smaller neighbor suffers the effects of a disaster of historic proportions—even if the two countries aren’t on the fondest of terms. And in fact, as our friends at the online statistics portal Statista pointed out today, a certain Swedish furniture maker has still given nearly twice as much cash as China, having raised its own offer to $2.7 million. (See the chart below for how other countries and companies stack up.)

It now seems China may finally be getting the message. Xinhua today confirmed a New York Times report that the country is finally sending its Peace Ark. The 14,000-ton ship—with its 300 beds, 20 ICUs, and eight operating theaters—will set sail on Thursday, nearly two weeks after Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. “We hope its mission will help ease the lack of medical services in the disaster areas in the Philippines, as a token of Chinese people's friendship to the Philippine people," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

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The death toll has climbed past 4,000, with many more still missing.

China IKEA chart: aid to Philippines

Illustration courtesy of Statista.com

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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