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China Humiliated By Typhoon Haiyan
by James Dunnigan
December 13, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan gave Filipino allies (especially the United States) and neighboring nations an opportunity to demonstrate disaster relief capabilities. This has become a big deal for the military, which over the last decade has gone from a regular chore for the local military to one where the major powers quickly show up via warships and military air transports to help out. The U.S. is particularly notable in this area because of its fleet of over twenty aircraft and helicopter carriers (the latter being amphibious operations support ships). The helicopters, landing craft, technical personnel (especially medical), and electrical generating capability of these ships saves a lot of lives and provides very visible American assistance.

The storm turned out to be something of a disaster for China, which initially offered paltry help ($200,000 worth, less than some corporations) and soon increased the aid ten-fold under pressure from international and Chinese media. China has always used its own military for natural disasters inside China and has gotten a lot more effective at it in the last decade as the army got better equipment (especially engineering gear and new trucks) and the air force received more helicopters and air transports. Noting how useful, and popular, this sort of relief work is inside China, troops now plan and practice for this kind of work, especially in areas subject to earthquakes or typhoons. As a result of this, which became international news, much more was expected of China, which has the largest military in the region. But now that military force is being seen as reserved for bullying the neighbors over territorial disputes, not helping neighbors in need. This is a major defeat for China in the diplomatic and image area and will hurt as the territorial disputes between China and the Philippines head for an international tribunal. This is something China always wanted to avoid, but now it really, really wants to avoid this.

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