Millions in aid to China criticised as ambitious space programme is announced

Figures seen by a newspaper show the UK distributed £27.4 million to the country last year

The Government has come under fire for giving millions of pounds in aid to China, despite the Communist superpower being able to afford an ambitious space programme.

The UK gave Beijing a whopping £27.4 million in aid last year, while the country continues to invest heavily in the space race.

Over the weekend, the Chinese completed a successful rover landing on the moon, the first in 37 years and the latest step in the country's ambitious space programme.

The landing makes China the third nation to carry out a lunar soft landing after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The revelations come only weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron led the UK's biggest ever trade delegation to China in a bid to strengthen the business relationship between Britain and Beijing.

His visit prompted a controversial editorial in the state-run newspaper Global Times, which described Britain as "merely a country of old Europe with a few decent football teams" that is "easily replaceable".

The Government says the UK is no longer sending direct aid to China, working with non-governmental partners to combat climate change and boost economic growth instead.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "Since 2011, we have stopped or are in the process of stopping bilateral aid to over a dozen countries that are becoming more prosperous like China and Russia.

"This has allowed us to concentrate our efforts where the need is greatest and where we can have most impact.

"It is right that where these programmes have closed that Her Majesty's Government continues to work with non-governmental partners on global issues like sustaining economic growth and climate change which affect us all."

But Tory MP Peter Bone has called on International Development Secretary Justine Greening to explain why the UK is "wasting" money on China, the world's second largest economy only after the United States, according to the World Bank.

"The public will be rightly horrified that we are still wasting money on aid to China,' he told the Daily Mail.

"It's extraordinary that we are doing this while they send a mission to the moon.

"If these aid programmes are still continuing then I think Justine Greening needs to come to Parliament and explain what the justification is, because I can't think of one."

China was among a list of 16 countries that the Government said would have its British aid funds cut off by 2016 following a review in 2011 by the then international development secretary Andrew Mitchell.

Reports also revealed a further 14 countries from the list received aid last year, adding up to a total of £131.9 million out of taxpayers' pockets.

According to the newspaper, Vietnam was given £51.5 million, Cambodia £14.5 million, closely followed by Indonesia £11.3 million and Kosovo £10.2 million.

Last year the Government announced plans to cut foreign aid to India by 2015, after coming under scrutiny for sending over an average of £280 million a year despite its multi-million space programme.

India recently launched its first rocket to Mars. Only the US, Russia and the European Union have successfully reached the planet.

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