There is a risk of the country taking “huge offence”by Yuan Ren / September 6, 2016 / Leave a comment
In July, a government review into the Hinkley Point C Nuclear power plant was announced. China, which is expected to build the £18bn project along with EDF of France‚ has not taken kindly to Theresa May’s decision. In an opinion piece in the Financial Times last month the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, emphasised that “mutual trust is the very foundation” of China’s relationship with the UK, and that the decision to delay Hinkley was throwing that trust into question. Indeed, Hinkley was the “flagship” scheme under which Chinese President Xi Jinping and David Cameron entered the “golden era”—they even bonded over fish and chips on Xi’s visit to the UK last year. Britain has a new prime minister—but that’s little excuse for roadblocks being thrown up.
Chinese people like to talk about shou xin as an important virtue to have when you have made a promise. The term literally translates as “guarding trust,” is widely used in China between friends and in business deals, and certainly applies when it comes to the contract for a nuclear power station. It is this shortage of shou xin that the Chinese government is playing up in protest against the announcement to delay Hinkley.
What’s possibly worse for China than losing faith in Hinkley is the country losing face. Domestically, China has been building its own nuclear reactors for over 20 years; last year, six reactors went live in China, with eight more commissioned to be built domestically. But as a country eager to position itself as an exporter of nuclear energy, Hinkley represents for China the inroad to the European market. Undermining the project itself undermines China’s global nuclear aspirations.
The row over Hinkley has failed to pique the same interest—or concern—in China as it has in the UK. News coverage of Hinkley was relatively low in volume from the media. Commentators were, however, quick to make their feelings felt: in an opinion piece from Xinhua, the government’s mouthpiece, the author queried May’s “suspicious approach” towards Chinese investment in the project. Published only in English, the piece was clearly for British…