Coke, Ikea give more to PH than China | Inquirer Business

Coke, Ikea give more to PH than China

/ 07:17 AM November 16, 2013

BEIJING—The outpouring of international aid to the Philippines makes China’s contribution for typhoon relief look like a trickle: Even Swedish furniture chain Ikea and beverage giant Coca-Cola have done more than the world’s second-largest economy.

That won’t help Beijing’s campaign to win over neighbors with its “soft power.”

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China has pledged less than $2 million in cash and materials, compared to $20 million provided by the United States, which also launched a massive military-driven rescue operation that includes an aircraft carrier.

Another Chinese rival, Japan, on Friday pledged another $20 million in aid, raising its total to $30 million.

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Australia is giving $28 million, and Ikea has offered $2.7 million through its charitable foundation.

The Coca-Cola Co. said it was donating more than $2.5 million in cash and aid material, including 129,000 cases of water.

 

Regional influence

China’s reluctance to give more—driven by a bitter feud with Manila over overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)—dents its global image at a time when it is vying with Washington for regional influence.

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

The decline of American influence in Asia, with China filling the vacuum, has been predicted for years.

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Asian nations have become increasingly dependent on China’s booming economy to purchase their exports, and Chinese companies are increasingly providers of investment and employment.

Yet, China lags far behind the United States in the sphere of soft power—the winning of hearts and minds through culture, education, and other non-traditional forms of diplomacy, of which emergency assistance is a major component.

Old-fashioned diplomacy

Despite Chinese academics’ frequent promotion of soft power, Chinese leaders don’t really get it, said Zheng. Instead, they continue to rely on the levers of old-fashioned major-nation diplomacy based on economic and military might.

“They still think they can get their way through coercion,” Zheng said.

China’s donations to the Philippines include $100,000 each from the government and the Chinese Red Cross, and it is sending an additional $1.64 million in tents, blankets and other goods.

US aircraft carrier

Meanwhile, the USS George Washington aircraft carrier arrived off the Philippine coast on Thursday, and 1,000 troops were expected on the ground in the disaster zone by the end of the week.

In devastated Tacloban, US Air Force Capt. Jon Shamess said: “I hope that in my time of immense loss somebody will come and help me as well. I can tell you this is a global effort.”

Britain, another leading contributor to the relief effort, is sending the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious later this month.

Ultimately, the damage to China will be “remarkably small,” but only because countries have little real love for Beijing and were expecting little from it, said University of Nottingham China expert Steve Tsang.

“It’s an expression of China’s petty-mindedness,” Tsang said. “China already demands respect so other countries fear but don’t love it.”

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TAGS: China, Coke, economy, Ikea, Swedish furniture, Yolanda aid
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