China’s remarkable, globally significant economic rise is to be welcomed by everyone who believes in free trade and market growth. I certainly welcome it myself. So you will understand that it is without one iota of criticism of China that I found myself shocked this week by the news that we give China £27m a year in aid.
The Chinese, in accepting such money, are doing nothing more than acting in their national interest. I don’t criticise them at all. They are the world’s second largest economy; but every little helps. Offered free cash, of course they take it. No, it’s not their mistake; we’re the fools.
I don’t really care that, in governmental terms, £27m is “not very much money”. It’s a lot of money to you or me. It’s a lot of money to someone working hard in this country on low or minimum wage who would be shocked to hear that their tax money is going to pay for China’s acquisition of US T-bonds or to pay for their army, vastly larger than our own, rather than for hospitals or schools or benefits right here. And, worse, that we’re borrowing money to pay out this daft “aid” in the first place.
There may well be individuals in China who are great need of help. No, let’s be more accurate: there definitely are such individuals. But they are citizens of a country rich enough to pay for it themselves. Sure, those people need help; but they shouldn’t receive it from us – they should be receiving it from their own, very well off state.
How’s this for a rule of thumb: if a country has a nice big space programme, then the correct amount of aid money they should receive from us is £0.