China said it may increase its 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in flood relief assistance to Pakistan, a key strategic ally of six decades, as the United Nations calls for global donations of $460 million.
China, the world’s third-biggest economy which shares a 520-kilometer border with Pakistan, has so far committed less assistance than countries including Finland and Norway. The U.S., which has pledged $55 million, is the biggest donor, and U.S. Army helicopters have shuttled aid into and refugees out of northern Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
“China is willing to actively consider increasing assistance based on Pakistan’s needs,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jiang Yu said in a statement.
Last week, China flew in aid on military transports, including generators, medicine and water-purification equipment to help the estimated 14 million people uprooted by country’s worst natural disaster in 80 years. The Chinese Red Cross has also given $50,000 in cash. The amount pledged so far by China is less than the $4.4 million it gave for Haiti’s earthquake relief earlier this year.
“In general, China tends not to be particularly generous with economic assistance,” said Teresita Schaffer, director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former top U.S. diplomat for the region.
“Their involvement in Pakistan has been long on political support and visible assistance to a handful of very high profile projects carried out with Chinese labor, so the Pakistanis didn’t even get any employment benefits out of it,” Schaffer said.
The Chinese helped build a port, roads and this year agreed to sell Pakistan two nuclear reactors. The two countries have had relations since 1951, two years after the People’s Republic of China was founded. China and Pakistan have both fought border wars with India, and Pakistan receives Chinese military assistance.
China’s humanitarian aid tends to come slowly and in waves, said Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Shanghai’s Fudan University.
“I don’t think China will lose a chance, it is a matter of time to respond,” Shen said.