Despite the seriousness of the disaster in southern Taiwan following the passage of Typhoon Morakot on Aug. 8, comparisons with the Sichuan Earthquake of May 12, 2008, should be made with the greatest of caution, as the magnitude of the catastrophes differ substantially. This notwithstanding, the damage in Taiwan is not inconsiderable, and help is needed.
I was therefore overjoyed to learn on Monday that the Canadian government, which until then had been conspicuously silent on Morakot, had finally announced it would be donating to the Taiwan Red Cross Society — that is, until I found out how much it was contributing: a measly C$50,000 (US$45,000), with about C$2,200 more from locally engaged staff and officials at the Canadian Trade Office and 200,000 water-purification tablets. This from a G8 country with a GDP of US$1.07 trillion in 2008.
Contrast this with the C$60 million that Canadians donated to China after Sichuan, of which half came from private donations and the other half from the Canadian government (it also donated C$11.6 million to Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis). Again, there is no debating that the Sichuan Earthquake was far more damaging and deadly than Typhoon Morakot, but the difference is nevertheless striking, especially so when one considers the amount of money Beijing spends on its military annually, the size of its economy and its tremendous foreign reserves. Yes, people in Sichuan are extremely poor, but this is mostly the result of inequitable wealth distribution, which doesn’t apply to Myanmar.
Democratic Taiwan, which threatens no one and which has a respectable history of helping other countries in time of need, receives peanuts from Canada, an important trading partner, source of tourism and home to many Taiwanese. Authoritarian China, which locks up dissidents, threatens neighbors, undermines civil securities in resource-rich countries and kills Tibetans and Uighurs by the hundreds, receives aid by the millions. Go figure.
As a Canadian who has made his home in Taiwan and has been given so much by the beautiful Taiwanese people, I feel ashamed of my government’s less than generous aid to Taiwan in its hour of need.