MPs demanded an inquiry last night as it was revealed that £71 million of taxpayers’ cash was handed to super-rich China in just one year.
Some of the aid money was used to put Chinese firms in competition with British counterparts.
The revelation comes as China – which has the second-largest economy in the world and can afford a space programme – is rapidly becoming an outcast on the international stage, amid hacking, national security and human rights controversies.
Beijing is threatening the UK with retaliation after Downing Street banned Chinese firm Huawei from its 5G network.
The colossal aid sums were buried in the Department for International Development’s annual report which was quietly put out this week as MPs go on their summer holiday.
It also reveals that:
The DFiD figures show that £71.6 million was sent to China – whose economy is five times larger than that of the UK – via a combination of direct British aid and a share of funding the UK gives to the likes of the United Nations and EU, who then distribute it.
The money is being spent on training primary school teachers, combating the illegal trade in wildlife and helping China set up off-shore windfarms.
It is also going towards teaching people in one of the world’s most advanced countries to use technology and ‘support human rights’ in a nation with a questionable record.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith last night questioned why the UK was sending money to a country which was ‘breaking every rule in the book’.
The vast amount was sent to China in 2018, the latest figures available, and was a 29 per cent increase on the amount sent in 2017.
As MPs called for action, the Government said it would reduce aid spending across the board as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said £3 billion would be cut from the total aid budget next year to reflect the shrinking of Britain’s economy. A source said the ‘axe would fall’ on countries such as China.
The Mail can reveal that millions in UK cash was channelled through the China Prosperity Fund, which has its own budget of £99 million, to spend between 2018 and 2022.
This pot funds schemes to ‘address market failures and weaknesses that impede China’s inclusive economic growth’. It is also supposed to bring British and Chinese companies closer.
The Foreign Office is accountable for the scheme, which is to ‘help China’s ongoing transition to an inclusive, sustainable and productive economy’. Money also went towards improving schools, dealing with climate change and animal welfare, reforming health and bringing in a UK-style pension system.
The huge spending, which counts towards the 0.7 per cent of national income that Britain has committed to spending annually on aid, comes despite the fact that Beijing stands accused of multiple human rights abuses. And it follows concerns about national security.
The DfID report also reveals that British taxpayers funded £5 million in 2018 for despotic North Korea, mainly through multilateral organisations such as the UN and EU.
Millions more went to communist Cuba – £4.6 million directly and £1.9 million from multilateral organisations. DfID also admitted that India was handed £287.9 million in bilateral and multilateral aid in 2018 – up 7 per cent on the year before – despite a pledge made five years ago to end aid spending in the country.
Sir Iain described the aid spending as ‘utter madness’ and demanded an urgent review into Britain’s relationship with China in the light of the Mail’s revelations.
He said: ‘It is utter madness that we are busy trying to improve the prospects for business in a country that is breaking every rule in the book.
‘China is the second-largest economy in the world, and it is winning business all over the world by undercutting firms in the West.
‘It has the largest sovereign fund in the world, and it sells more than it imports. Meanwhile, we are helping these Chinese businesses.
‘This makes it all the more urgent that we have a strategic review of the entirety of our relationship with and our dependency on China, including this sort of nonsense spending on aid.’
Last night a government spokesman defended the cash going to the Far East, saying: ‘We offer expertise and skills on shared challenges like climate change and health security or, where there is mutual benefit, we invest money which supports UK interests and creates opportunities for UK business.’
He said Britain collaborates only where it has ‘clear policy and commercial expertise’ and there is a ‘clear national interest’.