Even in the aftermath of the devastating tropical storm that smashed the Philippines this week, the ugly geopolitics of Asia’s Game of Thrones—a twenty-first century battle between multiple powers for influence, wealth, and power—rears its head. China, with whom the Philippines has tussled over disputed territory in the South China Sea, has made only a “meager” effort to help the Philippines. At the same time, the US, Great Britain, Japan, and others seem to be trying much harder and sending much more food and equipment and aid.
Of course, no country is the perfect aid donor, but, as Reuters reports, there is a distinct lack of interest on China’s part.
China’s government has promised $100,000 in aid to Manila, along with another $100,000 through the Chinese Red Cross – far less than pledged by other economic heavyweights.
Japan has offered $10 million in aid and is sending in an emergency relief team, for instance, while Australia has donated $9.6 million.
“The Chinese leadership has missed an opportunity to show its magnanimity,” said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong who focuses on China’s ties with Southeast Asia.
“While still offering aid to the typhoon victims, it certainly reflects the unsatisfactory state of relations (with Manila).”
China and the Philippines did not get along well in the months leading up to the storm, and on this evidence they are unlikely to get along better afterward. Instead, the Philippines is likely to continue to grow closer to its old nemeses, Japan and the US, and also Australia, which are offering far more help. This could have geopolitical ramifications as the Philippines competes with China for territory in the South China Sea, relying on its friends Japan and the US, both of whom are concerned about China’s increasing belligerence at sea.