Philippines relief effort lays bare China limitations
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Hong Kong
As the USS George Washington aircraft carrier sailed out of Hong Kong on Tuesday for the Philippines to help the devastated nation recover from typhoon Haiyan, China was unveiling its own relief effort: a donation of $100,000 in cash.
The US response to the catastrophe – sending nine navy ships to help the relief operations – stands in stark contrast to China’s donation, which amounts to just 2 per cent of what South Korea has offered the Philippines.
Beijing was never likely to send huge amounts of money to Manila because of a bitter dispute over contested territory in the South China Sea. But experts say the Chinese military – despite rapidly improving capabilities – has a long way to go before it can perform overseas relief operations at the level that the US, Japan and Australia do now.
“They just don’t have the hardware, the equipment, the training that the US, Australia, Japan and Thailand have,” says Timothy Keating, a retired admiral who oversaw US forces in Asia as head of Pacific Command.
The US has for decades helped its allies and others in the Pacific respond to disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.
James Stavridis, a retired admiral and dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School, says the US has been focusing more on such operations in recent years.
“We have always taken that kind of approach but over the past 10 years, we have put more emphasis on it,” says Mr Stavridis, a former head of US Southern Command.
In the Philippines, the US mission – named Operation Danaman, which means sympathy and help in Tagalog – will see thousands of troops use ships, helicopters and planes to help the victims. And in a move that underscores China’s absence, Japan is sending a record 1,000 Self Defence Forces to help the relief operations.