Tony Blair has been accused of “gold-digging” and “money-sucking” after he reportedly charged £240,000 for giving a speech in China. The China Youth Daily newspaper said the address had been like “listening to some domestic county or city-level official” and had given “nothing new”.
But The Beijing News called the former UK prime minister’s visit an “honour”.
Mr Blair’s spokesman said the speech had been “very well received by the audience in the hall”.
The former Labour leader spoke in Dongguan, in China’s southern province of Guangdong, as part of a visit sponsored by a real estate company.
The subject of his address was economic development and how it could be combined with environmentally friendly policies.
The Guangzhou Daily reported that Mr Blair had received $500,000 – about £240,000 – before tax for the speech. After tax, the fee was estimated to be £156,000.
The Guangzhou Daily said: “Like many world-renowned statesmen, Tony Blair, who only recently left his throne as British prime minister on 27 June this year, has been rushing around the world making commercial speeches after leaving office.
“This time, Blair’s money-sucking tentacles have extended into China.”
A commentary in China Youth Daily says: “Mr Blair’s speech sounded familiar to me. It was like listening to some domestic county or city-level official making a report, and his viewpoints did not have too many new ideas.
“That being the case, why did the local political and business sector spend such a huge sum of money to ‘buy’ this speech, and was it worth it?”
It adds: “With China’s opening up and development, China will also become a golden market for lectures by international celebrities like [former US President Bill] Clinton and Blair, and more international celebrities will inevitably be invited to give speeches in China in future.
“That being the case, we should be a bit less frivolous and vain, a bit more modest and pragmatic, and ask for more real knowledge and new knowledge, especially if we are spending even a single cent of taxpayers’ money.”
The Beijing News says: “Blair’s different treatment in the East and the West clearly shows the effect of ‘looking good from a distance’…
“Westerners, who have had close contact with Blair, have ‘shifted their affections’ since he stood down, but he still holds mystique for Asians.”
It adds: “In China, his speech was free to listen to… listening to a speech by a celebrity like Blair was an honour, and it was not important whether any new ideas were heard.”
Mr Blair’s spokesman said: “Mr Blair receives a large number of invitations to speak to a whole range of organisations.
“His speech was very well received by the audience in the hall.”
Mr Blair, who was replaced by Gordon Brown when he left Downing Street after 10 years, is now the Middle East envoy for the “Quartet” of the European Union, United Nations, Russia and the US.
He announced last month that he had signed a deal to write his memoirs, reportedly worth about £5m.