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CNBC

China warns UK over shock decision to delay nuclear power station

Relationship 'at a crucial historical juncture' says China's UK diplomat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 4:19pm

One of the UK's most avidly pursued trading relationships is threatened by the surprise delay of a planned £18 billion (US$23.4 billion) nuclear deal, the Chinese ambassador to the UK has warned.

Liu Xiaoming, whose tenure as Beijing's man in London has seen a notable warming in relations, warned in an editorial published in Tuesday's Financial Times: "the China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture."

"If Britain's openness is a condition for bilateral co-operation, then mutual trust is the very foundation on which this is built," he added.

The announcement last month that the new government of Prime Minister Theresa May would be reviewing the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the UK's Hinkley Point - despite the project being approved and backed by French energy group EDF - appeared to mark a departure from the enthusiastic courting of Chinese investment under the recently departed David Cameron. The deal, announced as part of a triumphal visit by China's President Xi Jinping last year, had been viewed as a staging post for co-operation between the UK, France and China.

While the previous regime, led by David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, appeared to be extremely enthusiastic about closer ties with China, May has been less vocal about the relationship - which may become even more important once the UK leaves the European Union trading bloc.

Nick Timothy, one of May's closest aides, wrote in a blog post around last year's much-publicised visit by Xi Jinping that the welcome was "baffling" given the concerns of security services about Chinese state-backed companies gaining access to sensitive industry sectors.