In this post yesterday I quoted a reader's comparison of U.S. response to the Haitian disaster -- which for America is right next-door -- with the much more modest mainland Chinese response. The reader said that this was one sign of the difference in the overall dimensions of national influence between the US and China.
Then another reader -- rather, one of many -- pointed out that a reason for the difference might be that Haiti is one of the 20+ countries still to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, rather than with the PRC government in Beijing, thus dampening mainland Chinese enthusiasm. I also noted that, as of the time I posted, the announced contribution from Taiwan was also relatively modest - about half a million dollars.
Two updates since then: current reports show that the Taiwan government has committed at least $5 million to Haitian relief, with more possibly on the way. The PRC government has also added to its initial commitment. I have no interest in turning a historic catastrophe into an arena for mainland-Taiwan rivalry, nor do I think dollar-counts are the real point here. (After the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, comparative donation-counts for big Chinese companies or famous Chinese people took a really unpleasant turn inside China, with campaigns of internet denunciation for those who seemed to be falling behind in the count.) Just updating the initial donation report, for the record.
One article that does present Haiti as a possible venue for PRC-Taiwan maneuvering is here. Other stories on Taiwan's activity are here in English, and here in Chinese. A reader notes this about activity in Taiwan:
"Many civil society organizations in Taiwan are also mobilizing around the earthquake relief effort, such as the Tzu Chi Foundation, the largest humanitarian organization in the Chinese-speaking world, with operations in over 40 countries. They just began a global fundraising effort for the earthquake relief, and Tzu Chi doctors and volunteers from the US and the Dominican Republic are preparing relief efforts. Their last aid mission to Haiti was in 2009, after a series of hurricanes that had struck the island."
Also, below is a fascinating message just in from my friend Patrick Chovanec in Beijing, author of our Nine Nations of China feature. It performs the unified-field trick of linking Haiti, Taiwan, and the PRC back to the other topic of the moment, Google:
"Despite China's muted practical response to the Haitian earthquake (for a variety of reasons), did you know that the news here in China is virtually wall-to-wall Haiti? Why? It's an excellent excuse for not devoting any reporting time to Google. I don't think I've seen a single report on Google on the official news, and even Phoenix [from Hong Kong] tacked it on as a 30-second spot following about 25 minutes of Haiti coverage. It's almost as if they said "Thank God, there's some REAL news we can cover and avoid mentioning Google." If they didn't have Haiti, they might actually have to talk about it."