Chancellor George Osborne, who is in China for talks aimed at boosting cultural ties, has pledged £7m in funding for the programme.
A further £750,000 will help take the British Museum’s ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ exhibition to China.
The exhibition, featuring art through the ages, is currently on a world tour.
Leaders of some of the UK’s biggest cultural institutions, including representatives from the British Library, the Southbank Centre and Shakespeare’s Globe, have joined the chancellor in China.
Before going, Mr Osborne sat down with BBC Radio 4’s Samira Ahmed, who quizzed him for Front Row on his reasons for going.
“I think the British people are fascinated by China; they have a combination of curiosity about this great force in the world and frankly a bit of anxiety,” said Mr Osborne.
“And one of the best ways people’s cultures express themselves is through their theatre and their paintings and their art… and what better way to explain to many, many Chinese people about Britain than letting them hear a Shakespeare play in Mandarin or see a David Hockney picture…there in China?”
The £7m funding will go towards projects including:
- £1.6m for the British Library to display literary treasures in China, including works by Shakespeare and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- £740,000 for Shakespeare’s Globe to tour The Merchant of Venice, including an education programme.
- £500,000 for a Royal Opera House training programme for Chinese students.
- £500,000 over three years for a new Love China Festival at London’s South Bank.
Mr Osborne defended the cost at a time when arts centres in the UK were suffering cuts, saying the government spent three quarters of a billion pounds on culture in the UK through the Arts Council last year.
“It’s a question, of course, of how you spend that money, and I think doing what we can to showcase British culture around the world is good for British culture… because one of the fastest growing groups of people coming to our country are Chinese tourists, who spend more per head than any other nationality.
“This is good finance as well as good art.”