US aircraft carrier the George Washington arrived Thursday in the typhoon-devastated Leyte province of the Philippines, carrying 5,000 crew and over 80 aircrafts. Before the move, the US had already sent a team of 90 marines and sailors as the first wave of US rescue force on Sunday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday announced the plan to dispatch up to 1,000 soldiers from the Self-Defense Force (SDF) as well as its destroyer the Ise to the Philippines to assist in disaster relief, which is said to be the biggest ever SDF mission overseas. The typhoon disaster has brought an unprecedented gathering of warships.
All the warships come to the Philippines for the indisputable goal of disaster relief. However, vigorous public opinion also focuses on a geopolitical competition between powers aiding the relief. We believe China should send its warships to the Philippines too.
It's a trend for the Chinese military to expand its rescue and humanitarian relief missions overseas. Sending Chinese warships to the Philippines at this time is well-intentioned. If Manila refuses the motion, that will only underscore its narrow mind and will be of no loss to China.
China could dispatch its hospital ship the Peace Ark, with an escort of warships, if sending its carrier the Liaoning is considered sensitive and pre-mature. The US and Japan may still likely hype China's move, but it won't cause any real harm to China. The global attention on the warship participation in disaster relief by the US and Japan eventually helps enhance their geopolitical influence.
The Peace Ark has participated in joint rescue exercises in Southeast Asia. Even if its appearance in the Philippines is intentionally misinterpreted, China should feel at ease.
China was cautious about sending troops overseas in the past because of a lack of capabilities, experience and many other concerns. But now, with the changing of the Chinese military, as well as the surrounding geopolitical environment, China should provide timely aid to disaster-struck regions. It could enhance its national image as a responsible power and help extend the spectrum of Chinese military missions.
The Chinese military must gradually assume a more forceful role in China's diplomacy, being ready to deal with various situations.
The overemphasis on "face-saving" by Chinese in the past mirrors our weakness and lack of confidence. There is no need for a stronger China to worry about what we should do if our offer is rejected by the Philippines or if we are criticized by global public opinion due to poor performance.
Japan offered to deliver aid materials using military aircraft during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, which was rejected by China but the Japanese public wasn't embarrassed.
Will China send warships to help in relief? This time might be when we start to accumulate experience.