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ABSURD: British government sent $65.5M worth of foreign aid to China last year, the world’s second largest economy

  The government of the United Kingdom gave nearly 50 million pounds ($65.5 million) worth of foreign aid to China last year. This is accord...

 The government of the United Kingdom gave nearly 50 million pounds ($65.5 million) worth of foreign aid to China last year.

This is according to a new report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), a watchdog group that found overseas aid sent to Beijing from 2021 to 2022 was around 48 million pounds ($63 million).

ICAI noted that this is a significant decrease from the over 80 million pounds ($107 million in 2019 dollars) the British government sent to China in 2019. Furthermore, this foreign aid to Beijing is expected to continue decreasing, with the commission estimating that it could fall to as low as 10 million pounds by the end of 2024.  

The decrease in aid to China comes during an extended period of frosty relations between the rising Asian power and the British parliament.

In an interview with the British newspaper the Daily Express, member of parliament and former Conservative Party Leader Iain Duncan Smith noted how "bizarre" it is that Britain continues to provide handouts to Beijing and believes the money being sent to China should be diverted to countries more in need.

"China is now the second largest economy in the world. It seems bizarre that we would be giving aid to China given their own financial position," he said. "Whatever else the government says, it's time for that to stop and for that aid to be given to countries that genuinely need the assistance and help in developing their economies."

British government not transparent about how foreign aid is being spent

ICAI's main concern with the foreign aid being sent to China is not so much the amount, but the fact that the British government and the British Council – one of the main government bodies responsible for providing overseas aid – are not being transparent about how the taxpayer-funded aid is being spent.

The ICAI report noted that it was only able to find "very limited information in the public domain" about how aid being sent to China was being spent.

"The British Council does not publish documents reporting on the design, implementation and results of its substantial programs in China," reads the ICAI report.

"While U.K. aid to China has fallen rapidly in recent years, taxpayers are still not being told clearly how much aid will continue and what it will be spent on," said ICAI Commissioner Hugh Bayley, who led the latest review of government aid spending.

According to the investigation and from the very limited information provided to ICAI by the British government, most aid funding that goes to the communist nation has either ended or been substantially reduced. What little remaining aid there, is being spent on programs related to higher education, arts and culture, English language teaching and human rights.

"Average incomes in China will soon be too high for the country to continue to receive foreign aid and there appears to be no clear government strategy for how to manage this, which could put some of the benefits from past U.K. development assistance at risk," noted Bayley.

ICAI's report further found that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Britain's equivalent to a foreign affairs department, has been spending a stable 1.65 million to 1.7 million pounds ($2.17 to $2.23 million) to fund the studies of Chinese students under the Chevening Scholarships program since 2019. This is one of the few remaining foreign aid the FCDO is sending to China.

"We stopped direct aid to the Chinese government in 2011 and the FCDO committed to cut ODA [official development assistance] funded programs in China by 95 percent from the 2021-22 financial year with remaining funding focused on specific programs that support British values around open societies and human rights," said a spokesperson for the Foreign Office.

"No funding goes to the Chinese authorities," the spokesperson continued. "We remain committed to transparency and will continue to work closely with ICAI to ensure that all U.K. aid spending maintains our high standards of transparency and has the greatest impact."

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