The UK’s aid engagement with China

An information note on the UK’s aid engagement with China.


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 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 former Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Prosperity Fund, have continued to spend aid in China on its domestic development challenges across a wide range of sectors. Information in the public domain about this aid spend is limited.


This information note will provide a factual account of the UK’s financial and strategic engagement with China on development issues, and explore how this engagement fits into the UK’s wider foreign policy approach.

It will look at the UK government’s ODA-funded development work with China and ODA spend in China since 2016, building on ICAI’s 2016 review of DFID’s approach to managing exit and transition in its developing partnerships, which included China as a case study.

The information note will consist of three core components:

  1. A brief history of the UK’s strategic development relationship with China.
  2. A mapping of ODA spent in China and of ODA spent on joint programmes with China across government departments.
  3. Case studies of how the UK has engaged with China on key themes.

As an information note, it will not make evaluative judgments or make recommendations. Instead it will provide insights about an area of the UK aid programme that is of considerable public interest.


We expect this information note to be published in April 2021.

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