China bolsters Pacific credentials by rushing cyclone aid to Vanuatu

Cyclone Pam over Vanuatu. Source: NASA / Wikipedia

Cyclone Pam over Vanuatu. Source: NASA / Wikipedia

Robert Barber

When Cyclone Pam, an extremely destructive category 5 storm, crashed into Vanuatu at the weekend, it wreaked havoc killing at least 50 people. China was quick to join the South Pacific’s traditional financial guardians Australian and New Zealand in offering aid.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology three tropical cyclones were active in the South Pacific last week. Cyclone Pam off the north east coast dominated the headlines, hitting Vanuatu late on Friday March 13 triggering a state of emergency.

The archipelago nation comprises 82, mainly small, islands.  When Cyclone Pam struck many villages, ships and infrastructure were swept away. According to Reuters it was catastrophic, with winds of more than 300 kph (185 mph) the storm was comparable in strength to Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013 and killed more than 6,000 people, and looked set to be one of the worst natural disasters the Pacific region has experienced.

The People’s Daily reported China will provide 30 million yuan’s (4.87 million U.S. dollars) worth of relief supplies, including tents, food and power generators which were rushed to the South Pacific island nation. The paper also said that China will offer further aid according to Vanuatu’s needs.

In the last decade China has strengthened ties with the tiny far flung nations in the region, providing bilateral aid, scholarships and support for regional groups. China has diplomatic relations with 8 Pacific island countries: the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

The Lowy Institute recently published an interactive map of China’s aid to the 8 nations. This sophisticated infographic provides data by country, sector, dollar value and the status of the aid.  You can see more here….