Regional Asian Politics Play Out in Response to Typhoon Haiyan

Philippine soldiers pack relief supplies for victims of Typhoon Haiyan at Villamor Airbase. Philippine soldiers pack relief supplies for victims of Typhoon Haiyan at Villamor Airbase. Wong Maye-E/AP

If you want to get a sense of the regional conflicts in Asia, look no further than how China and the United States reacted to the horrific super typhoon in the Philippines.

The United Nations estimates that 11 million people were affected by the storm, culminating in an 800,000 people displaced and another 10,000 feared dead. That latter number may decrease in the coming days, with Philippine President Benigno Aquino recently telling CNN that the number is closer to 2,000 or 2,500 people.

Survivors are in desperate need of food, water, shelter, sanitation, and health materials. The U.N. has already released $25 million to assist survivors, and is asking for more.

That's where some of the world's largest economies can help out.

The U.S., an ally of the Philippines, is giving $20 million in humanitarian assistance, ranging from food to medical needs. Additionally, the U.S. sent the nuclear-powered USS George Washington, which carries 5,000 sailors and 80 aircraft, and four other Navy ships to the country.

The U.S. is also unofficially backing the Philippines over China in its pursuit to protect its claim to resource-rich islands in the South China Sea. Other countries, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, are in a similar dispute with China over those islands.

For its part, China is only giving the Philippines $100,000 for humanitarian relief.

Compare this figure to the amount of humanitarian relief Beijing has given other regional countries during separate disasters. In September, China pledged $5 million to Pakistan after a deadly earthquake.

Beijing is hearing criticism from its own state-run newspaper the Global Times, which wrote in an editorial:

China, as a responsible power, should participate in relief operations to assist a disaster-stricken neighboring country, no matter whether it's friendly or not.

Japan and Australia, two other allies of the U.S., have also pledged humanitarian assistance to the Philippines in, giving $10 million and $9.6 million, respectively.

If China wants to claim it can be a world leader, providing little in humanitarian aid to a regional neighbor during times of disaster might hurt its case.

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