The World

China’s Stingy Philippines Aid

Philippine and US military personnel unload relief goods from a US military C-130 plane at Tacloban airport in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013, after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the city on November 8.

Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

China’s foreign ministry says the country will provide $100,000 in cash and “humanitarian emergency relief assistance” to the Philippines, following the devastation of Tyhpoon Haiyan.

To be fair, China is itself coping with the effects of the storm, which killed at least 6 people and forced thousands to evacuate in the southern regions of Hainan and Guangxi, but as Jane Perlez of the New York Times notes, amid ongoing territorial tensions in the South China Sea, China’s aid to the Philippines, where the storm took a vastly greater toll, seems modest compared to past disasters.


China gave $1 million to the Philippines after a tropical storm in 2011, before relations between the country deteriorated. It also gave a 1.5 million cash grant to Pakistan following an earthquake in September.


In addition to an immediate $100,000 in aid from the United States, the U.S. Pacific Command has deployed ships and aircraft to assist in the rescue mission and USAID has sent a team to the region. (Update: The U.S. now says it is providing $20 million in immediate aid.) Other countries have also offered substantial aid packages including US$10 million from Australia and $9.5 million from Britain.

As Rory Medcalf writes, while it may seem callous to think about geopolitics in the wake of a horrific humanitarian tragedy, but disasters like this one or the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami do have political consequences and with intense competition for influence in this region, countries like the Philippines are likely to remember which countries were more generous.  

Update 2: On Nov. 14, China announced it was increasing its aid to $1.4 million.