Chinese ambassador says relations are at “historical juncture” following surprise review of Somerset nuclear plant
China has warned its deepening business ties with the UK have been put at risk by Theresa May’s unexpected decision to review the £18bn Hinkley Point C nuclear plant scheme in Somerset.
The Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming has said his country’s relations with the UK are at a “crucial historical juncture” following the government’s decision last month to review public subsidies promised to the project, which is a third-owned by state-owned China General Nuclear.
Writing in the Financial Times, Xiaoming said: “If Britain’s openness is a condition for bilateral co-operation, then mutual trust is the very foundation on which this is built.”
“Right now, the China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture. Mutual trust should be treasured even more. I hope the UK will keep its door open to China and that the British government will continue to support Hinkley Point – and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly.”
Prime minister May is reported to have ordered the last gasp review due to reservations about China taking a large stake in a key piece of UK infrastructure, with Hinkley Point C set to meet 7% of the UK’s energy needs when and if it completes. The review will conclude in “early autumn”.
Last week a well-placed source on the Hinkley Point C project told Building Chinese investors – many of whom travelled to Somerset earlier this month expecting to sign final contracts for the project – felt “they’ve had two fingers stuck up to them” by the UK government.
The Chinese ambassador’s intervention comes after a string of major investments by Chinese companies in the UK in recent weeks.
Hong Kong-based Far East Consortium was appointed to deliver 600 homes around Manchester’s Victoria Station last week, while Chinese builder Sichuan Gudong Construction Group last month agreed a 60-year tie-up with the city of Sheffield worth £1bn.