British MPs have demanded an inquiry after it was revealed that the UK gave Â£71.6 million ($91.3 million) of taxpayers' money to China in aid in just one year. Some of this amount was reportedly used to put Chinese firms in competition with their British rivals. The revelation has raised fury among British MPs who have now questioned why so much money is being given to China which is already self-sufficient.
The figures buried in the Department for International Development's (DFiD) annual report comes amid growing tensions between the UK and China over Hong Kong and Huawei. China has been constantly threatening the UK with retaliation after the British government last week banned Huawei from its ambitious 5G network.
The revelation about the massive Â£71.6 million aid was made earlier this week, which so long lay buried in the DFiD annual report. The report reveals that the amount was given to China directly as part of the funding UK gives to organizations like the UN for distribution.
The money is reportedly being used to train primary school teachers in China, combating illegal wildlife trade and helping the country set up off-shore windfarms, according to a Daily Mail report. Also, some of the funding was used to train Chinese people to use advanced technology, and to "support human rights".
However, the revelation has raised fury among MPs who on Wednesday demanded an inquiry into the matter as they believe that China is already self-sufficient and has a thriving tech industry along with one of the world's most advanced space programs. Moreover, it is the world's second-biggest economy. The Chinese economy is nearly five times the size of UK's economy, they point out. .
What's the Secret?
The latest figures available in the DFiD's annual report are that of 2018, which reflects a 29 percent jump in the amount sent to China in 2017. Also, a portion of the amount was channeled through the China Prosperity Fund, which has a budget of Â£99 million, to spend between 2018 and 2022.
The revelation, naturally, has left British MPs stunned and comes amid growing tensions between China and the UK over Hong Kong and the Downing Street's recent decision to ban Huawei from its 5G plan. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith 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."
DFiD in its defense said that the UK has spent less than 0.5 percent of its total Overseas Development Assistance or development budget in China over the past three years. However, that isn't enough to silence the MPs. Smith, along with several others, are now calling for a "strategic review" of the entirety of the relationship the UK shares with China and the reason behind its dependency on the country.
The revelation comes at a time when China has been facing increasing international ire for the way it has handled the coronavirus pandemic that is now taking its toll on the global economy alongside a spate of major issues like hacking, data theft, national security and human rights controversies. The British government, however, said it would reduce aid spending across the board as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic but that may not be enough to pacify the enraged MPs.