Is UK foreign aid funding filming in Beijing?

6th Jun 2018


Some of the foreign aid budget went on China’s film and museum industry last year.


Correct, at least £440,000 of Overseas Development Aid was spent on Chinese film, TV and museum projects in 2016/17.

“Ministers are accused of undermining trust in £14bn foreign aid budget by failing to ensure it is spent on the world’s poorest after cash went to boost China’s film industry.”

MailOnline, 5 June 2018

"British taxpayers’ cash is being spent on China’s museums and film industry, a Commons report into overseas aid has revealed."

The Times, 5 June 2018

"Projects supported by the prosperity fund – which is administered by the Foreign Office and paid out £46m in 2017 – included development of the Chinese film industry, improving the Chinese museum infrastructure and improving the credit bond rating system in China, MPs found."

The Guardian, 5 June 2018

In 2017 the aid budget was about £14 billion. At least £440,000 of the 2016/17 foreign aid budget was spent on China’s museums and film and TV industries. Around £140,000 was spent on helping the Chinese TV and film sectors, and a further £300,000 on museums and cultural heritage.  

An earlier version of the MailOnline story said “£14billion went to boost China’s film industry” which the Mail subsequently corrected. 

We commit a portion of our national income to foreign aid

The UK government has a target to spend 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income on overseas development aid each year. Gross National Income (GNI) is the UK’s annual output of goods and services, plus any income we get from abroad.

Most of that money is spent by the Department for International Development, but around a quarter is spent by other departments.

Last year around £46 million was spent from the cross-governmental Prosperity Fund, which is where the money for Chinese film, TV and museums came from.  

Last year around £440,000 was spent on the Chinese film, TV and museum sectors

In 2016/17, the latest year we have data for, around £81,000 was spent on a project “designed to draw upon the expertise of UK TV professionals so that the Chinese TV sector and relevant Chinese authorities learn a range of new skills.” A further £62,000 was spent on “enhancing UK-China collaborations particularly in areas such as co-productions and film exports.”

As for museums, £112,000 was spent on “developing China’s museum infrastructure”, a further £82,000 on “developing curatorial and business skills in China’s museum sector” and another £103,000 for “building capacity and supporting policy in china's cultural heritage sector.”  

So that’s a total of around £140,000 on TV and film and £300,000 on museums and cultural heritage. The total budgeted for these projects was slightly higher, totalling £450,000, but the Foreign Office say £440,000 was spent on these projects in the 2016/17 financial year.

The Prosperity Fund focuses on delivering aid to middle income countries, and says its primary purpose is “to remove barriers to economic growth in order to reduce poverty.”