I have had one encounter with the Chinese state—and it left me feeling that our countries will never be true partnersby Jay Elwes / August 4, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Chinese government has hinted that if Britain does not give the go-ahead to the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, then it will revise its future plans for investment in the UK. China is a part investor in the Hinkley project, along with the French government-owned company EDF and both are keen for the project to go ahead. But, as Prospect has reported the project is beset by problems of scale, funding and reactor design. These questions have caused Theresa May to pause the project so that the government can review the situation. Remarks made today suggest that the Chinese government is willing to use its proposed investments in Britain over the next decade as a lever to make sure the project goes through. The Times reported today that the Chinese government wants the project to start “as soon as possible.” Last week, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua said: “The new British government is actually running the risk of dampening the hard-won mutual trust with China.” China is planning many tens of billions of pounds’ worth of investment in Britain, as well as Hinkley.
Only a year ago, things were very different. In 2015, when President Xi Jingping visited London for a state visit, a Treasury statement announced that £30bn worth of commercial deals had been completed during the visit. These, the government suggested, would create over 3,900 jobs in the UK. Who could possibly pour cold water on such economic benefits? The economic logic of China, with its surplus, investing in deficit-ridden Britain has an irresistible symmetry. But in cosying up to the Chinese, promising investment opportunities and a safe financial haven for off-shore trade in the Chinese currency, did we go too far? Can Britain and China ever be true partners?