Chinese leaders are notoriously sensitive to public opinion on foreign affairs. On the Chinese Internet, the chief outlet for such expression, sentiment is strongly against providing aid.
"Why should we donate to the Philippines so that they can arm themselves with warships and aircraft? Is the Philippines a country that understands gratitude? Didn't we show our warm heart to the country? What did we get from that? Nothing," Fu Yao, a popular maker of micro-films, wrote on his miniblog.
Zhu Feng, an international relations expert at Peking University, said the amount donated "reflects the political deadlock, if not outright hostility, between the two countries. The political atmosphere is the biggest influence."
An additional factor could be China is a relative newcomer to overseas disaster relief. The country sent tents and a medical mission to hardest-hit Aceh province in Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and government and public donations ranged in the millions of dollars.
Since then, China's participation has been mainly limited to assisting close ally Pakistan with flood and earthquake relief and some help to foreign nationals fleeing Libya during an unprecedented mission to evacuate 30,000 of its citizens from the war-torn nation.
When China has suffered natural disasters itself, it has largely handled them on its own. China has considerable capacity to do so and depends on its own military, the world's largest. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, for example, it only accepted token foreign aid. The Philippines offered a medical team and emergency supplies, but China declined that and other offers at the time.
China's private sector isn't likely to step into the gap. Charity is dominated by the government, with few private organizations of national reach. Those that exist, such as the Red Cross, have often been discredited by allegations of corruption and waste.
Meanwhile, corporate philanthropy remains in its infancy and China's growing class of millionaires and billionaires are notoriously loath to part with their wealth. Privately, and online, many Chinese say any attempt to help by a mainland Chinese company would go down badly with the public.
That contrasts starkly with the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, which is helping despite strong public outrage over Manila's handling of a 2010 hostage crisis that killed Hong Kong residents. From Hong Kong, aid teams were dispatched and private charities pledged millions in donations.
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."
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves in Tacloban, Philippines, contributed.
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