In one of the more embarrassing showings of goodwill in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, China initially pledged $100,000 of foreign aid to the Philippines, far less than even some private donors. After being shamed, the country with the world's second biggest economy increased their donation to an unimpressive (for global superpower) $1.6 million. Now there are whispers back home that Filipinos aren't being appreciative enough.
A an editorial appearing in the Southern Daily, the official communist newspaper of the Guangdong province (translated by the South China Morning Post) lashed out at Filipino for not graciously accepting China's help. "The Chinese government and people have never begrudged 'love' for the Philippines, but the Philippines is obviously not content or even appreciating China's 'love', only expecting 'more love' from China," it read. That's a little harsh to criticize a country where doctors are overwhelmed with horrible injuries, where hospitals don't even have basic supplies, and survivors are still starving.
China's paltry initial offering was the foreign aid equivalent of Mitt Romney leaving a penny in the tip jar, which is why they were goaded into upping their donation to $1.6 million. But when you look at what other big economies have given — the U.S.'s $20 million, Australia's $30 million, the U.K's $16 million and Japan's $10 million — that number is still pretty embarrassing. Even the Swedish furniture company IKEA has pitched in more, promising $2.7 million to the country. Coca-Cola promised $2.5 million too.
China's meager donation is more surprising when you think of the larger relationship between the two nations. Throughout history, Chinese natives have immigrated to the Philippines and many made good lives for themselves — according to Forbes, the two richest people in the Philippines are tycoons of Chinese descent. The country celebrates Chinese New Year and Filipino culture has many traces of Chinese influence. Currently, however, they are in a territorial spat over the waters in the South China Sea, near the Philippines, that China claims to own.
"China's action illustrates the blundering nature of its foreign policy," Phillip Swagel, a former assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department, told USA Today. "This is an unforced error for them, revealing to other countries the limits of Chinese friendship," he added.
Some in China recognize the blunder too. "If China gives meager aid to the Philippines this time, our own losses may well outweigh the losses inflicted upon them by insufficient aid," the Global Times, a paper described as a "government mouthpiece", said in an editorial.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.