Why is China so stingy with its aid money?

China's callous response to the Philippines typhoon shows that it all comes down to politics

Philippines aid
(Image credit: (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images))

When images of the destruction in the Philippines wreaked by Super Typhoon Haiyan were broadcast across the world last week, the international community rushed forward with generous offers of aid. The U.S. pledged $20 million and mobilized an aircraft carrier for the relief effort. Britain promised $16 million and sent a warship. The Vatican dispatched $4 million, Japan $10 million, and Ireland $1.4 million.

As for China, the neighborhood's superpower and the world's second-largest economy? It initially offered a measly $100,000. Following a storm of bad publicity — TIME's Hanna Beech called the donation mean-spirited, and even China's nationalist Global Times newspaper said in an editorial that the offer was too small — Beijing upped its donation to $1.6 million. That's still less than the $2.7 million pledged by the charitable wing of Swedish furniture giant Ikea.

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