We published our information note on the UK’s aid engagement with China in April 2021, and identified four lines of inquiry that merit further scrutiny. Shortly after, we published an update providing further information following the Foreign Secretary’s announcement that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) aid to China would be cut.
To address continuing gaps in information about UK aid to China, we published a further update in July 2023, with more complete information on the changes in UK aid to China in 2021-22, and available information on budgeted aid to China for 2022-23 and beyond.
China’s development progress over the last three decades has re-shaped its status and role in the international community. Although China is still defined as a developing country, it is expected to reach the income threshold to graduate from aid eligibility in the next four to six years, and it plays an increasingly important role in the developing world as a donor, investor and trading partner.
In 2011, the former Department for International Development (DFID) announced it would no longer provide official development assistance (ODA) to China, or support its domestic development. Instead, it would work with China to shape its role in the world, including its engagement with Africa and other developing regions – and in 2015, a new partnership between the UK and China was announced to tackle global development issues.
Other government departments, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Prosperity Fund and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), scaled up their aid spend since 2015, putting in place new partnerships with China in areas such as research and innovation, health and climate change. Information in the public domain about this aid spend has been limited.
This information note aims to shed more light on the subject by providing an account of the nature and objectives of UK development cooperation with China. Its purpose is to improve transparency and support informed discussion among parliamentarians and other interested actors.
As an information note, it does not make evaluative judgments or make recommendations.