China didn’t exactly spring into action to help its typhoon ravaged neighbor, the Philippines. Earlier this week, as the Philippines grappled with typhoon Haiyan, China pitched in a measly $100,000 in cash. By comparison, USA Today reports, the U.S. has pledged $20 million. Australia $30 million, the U.K. $16 million, and both Japan and the United Arab Emirates contributed $10 million. How paltry was China’s first offer? According to the Los Angeles Times, “even the Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, editorialized against the Chinese government.”
After facing some heat for being cheap during a humanitarian disaster, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs upped the country’s aid offer to $1.64 million in tents and other relief goods. Along with the new pledge, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered these no-frills words of encouragement to his Filipino counterpart, Benigno Aquino. “May the Filipino people overcome the disaster and rebuild their homeland at an early date,” China’s president told President Aquino during a phone call on Wednesday.
Underlying Chinese reluctance to pony up and help its neighbor is an ongoing political dispute between Beijing and Manila over territorial claims in the South China Sea. "Territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea have poisoned relations between Beijing and Manila since early 2012, and the Philippines is taking its case against China to an international arbitration tribunal,” the New York Times reports. “The Philippines angered China this year by accepting a gift of naval vessels from Japan and by supporting Japan’s plans to strengthen its military.” Another reason for the lack of assistance is, ironically, the opinion of Internet commentators, according to the Times. “Another factor in determining the initial size of the gift was the hostility among Chinese Internet commentators toward foreign aid, and to aid to the Philippines in particular,” Chinese experts told theTimes.
China’s new pledge still ranks the world’s second biggest economy pretty low among donor nations to the Philippines. This week, IKEA’s donation to relief efforts almost doubled China’s.