China slammed for giving less Typhoon Haiyan aid to Philippines than Ikea

Steve Mertl
·National Affairs Contributor
Typhoon Haiyan survivors walk amid ruins of buildings in Maraboth, Philippines, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. The Canadian Forces are considering sending a detachment of three to six Griffon helicopters to help with relief efforts in the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Haiyan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Dita Alangkar
Typhoon Haiyan survivors walk amid ruins of buildings in Maraboth, Philippines, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. The Canadian Forces are considering sending a detachment of three to six Griffon helicopters to help with relief efforts in the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Haiyan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Dita Alangkar

News item: The B.C. government is pledging $300,000 in relief aid for the victims Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

That's three times as much as China's initial donation, which was far, far less than flat-pack furniture purveyor Ikea is offering.

Yes, the world's second-largest economy and the Philippines' regional neighbour, offered what amounts to the chain in the hallway coin tray to help millions of people displaced by what many consider the most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history.

"So many British Columbians have roots in the Philippines – family or friends the storm has left homeless, missing or waiting to be rescued," Premier Christy Clark said in a statement.

"The provincial government will match every dollar British Columbians donate to the Canadian Red Cross - up to $300,000."

As the scope of the Nov. 8 disaster, whose death toll so far is 1,800 and could reach 10,000, became apparent, the federal government pledged $5 million the following day, then later offered to match donations from Canadians dollar-for-dollar until Dec. 9. That total is likely to be large, given that Canada has almost half a million people of Filipino origin and all Canadians generally open their wallets for these catastrophes.

[ Related: How to help donate to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts ]

Canada has also dispatched the lead elements of the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team, with other personnel and equipment now on the way.

But China at first offered just $100,000, plus $100,000 for the Chinese Red Cross relief efforts in the typhoon-hit area (all figures in U.S. dollars).

The Associated Press reported that by comparison, Swedish furniture giant Ikea is offering a total of $2.7 million in cash and material through its charitable foundation.

China's initial tight-fistedness created an international backlash.

"China has missed an excellent opportunity to show itself as a responsible power and to generate goodwill," Zheng Yongnian, a China politics expert at the National University of Singapore, told the Guardian. "They still lack strategic thinking."

Some observers connected China's response to its territorial dispute with the Philippines over some rocky islands in a resource-rich part of the South China Sea.

But an article on Time.com noted even Taiwan, which is also involved the the territorial fracas and last May saw one of its fishermen killed by the Philippine Coast Guard, pledged $200,000.

Social media weighed in, of course.

But the grousing left some Chinese unmoved.

Time noted some on Weibo, China's social-media network, felt if the Filipinos didn't like China's gift, they could lump it.

“Our country is also suffering from the same natural disaster, but we still offered help to you [in the Philippines],” wrote one user, referring to a weakened Haiyan's landfall in China, which killed eight. “If you do not appreciate our help, give back our money.”

Another said the Philippines doesn't really need the money, “since the Philippine government has the budget to purchase American weapons ..."

Still, China's Global Times, which speaks for China's ruling Communist Party, published an editorial on Tuesday apparently chiding the government's underwhelming response to the disaster.

"China shouldn't be absent in the international relief efforts. Instead, it should offer help within the compass of its power, given China's international position and its location of facing the Philippines across the sea," the English-language daily said.

"It's a must to aid typhoon victims in the Philippines despite Haiyan having also battered China's coastal regions and bilateral tensions over the South China Sea disputes."

The admonition may have had some effect. On Thursday, China announced its aid package of money and material now would total more than $1.64 million.

[ Related: Typhoon Haiyan donations: how to avoid the scams ]

A survey of various news reports breaks down major by-country government-level donations this way:

The U.S. has pledged $20 million in immediate aid, including food, medical supplies and shelter, along with deployment of substantial military forces to help distribute it.

Britain's contribution adds up to about $16 million, including delivery of equipment to open roads and provide supplies.

Japan, which invaded and brutally occupied the Philippines during the Second World War, announced $10 million in relief aid.

Australia has announced $10 million in support, including a medical team, while New Zealand is pledging $2 million, some of which goes to New Zealand non-profit groups working with Philippine partners. And Malaysia has pledged $1 million in cash, plus food aid.

The United Nations announced $25 million in aid while the European pledged eight million euros, about $10.7 million.

And the Vatican has reportedly pledged three million euros to help the predominantly Roman Catholic country, while Pope Frances also announced a $150,000 donation.