Beijing calls for British nuclear project financially backed by China to proceed

Foreign ministry expresses hope new government can reach decision over fate of Hinkley power plant ‘as soon as possible’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 11:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 11:54pm

China on Monday called for Britain to proceed with a nuclear power plant project partly invested in by a Chinese firm, saying the project had firm support from London, after Britain’s new government said it would review it again.

The plan by France’s EDF to build two reactors with financial backing from a Chinese state-owned company, China General Nuclear Power Corp, was championed by British Prime Minister Theresa May’s predecessor, David Cameron, as a sign of Britain’s openness to foreign investment.

But just hours before a signing ceremony was due to take place on Friday, May’s new government said it would review the project again, raising concern that Britain’s approach to infrastructure deals, energy supply and foreign investment may be changing.

May was concerned about the security implications of the Chinese investment in the ­Hinkley Point nuclear plant and intervened to delay the project, a former colleague said on Saturday.

This project was agreed upon by China, Britain and France in the spirit of mutual benefit and cooperation
Hua Chunying, foreign ministry spokeswoman

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said they had “noted” the decision. “I would like to stress that this project was agreed upon by China, Britain and France in the spirit of mutual benefit and cooperation ... and has always had the strong support of Britain and France,” Hua said. China “hopes that Britain can reach a decision as soon as possible, to ensure the project’s smooth implementation”, she added.

British cloud over EDF-China General Nuclear Hinkley Point power plant deal

A spokeswoman for May said later it was natural for the incoming government to want to look at the plans in detail, adding that Britain still valued its ties with China. “With the role that China has to play on world affairs, on the global economy, on a whole range of international issues, we are going to continue to seek a strong relationship with China,”she said.

Britain and EDF first reached a broad commercial agreement on the project in 2013. China got involved two years later when Downing Street laid on a state visit for Chinese President Xi Jinping, designed to cement a “Golden Era” of relations between the two countries.

China General Nuclear Power, which would hold a stake of about a third in the project, said on Saturday it respected the decision of the new British government to take the time needed to familiarise itself with the programme.

But Xinhua took a stronger line. “What China cannot understand is the ‘suspicious approach’ that comes from nowhere to Chinese investment in making the postponement,” it said in an English-language commentary. “For a kingdom striving to pull itself out of the Brexit aftermath, openness is the key way out.”