When President Trump was in office, the White House and the Pentagon aggressively lobbied No. 10 to ban components made by Chinese telecom giant Huawei from the UK's 5G network. In the end, while Great Britain agreed to some restrictions, it didn't deliver on what the White House had pushed for.
In another indication of the growing mistrust between China and the US, the UK is looking for a way to remove state-owned Chinese firms from several civilian nuclear-energy projects.
The news comes as Hong Kong's kangaroo courts (no longer subject to the rigid strictures of British Common Law) hand down the first of what's bound to be many convictions under the new national security law imposed by Beijing, the FT reports that the UK is seeking to remove all Chinese firms from its heavily regulated nuclear power industry.
After a spree of deals in the mid-2010s, the British government is seeking to remove China General Nuclear from all projects, a decision that would have a dramatic impact on plans to build a plant at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex using Chinese reactor technology. Apparently, CGN is so deeply involved in the project, that booting them might lead to a fresh start.
The FT cited the backlash to Hong Kong - Britain has allowed Hong Kongers to migrant to the UK, a move that has greatly angered Beijing - as well as the CCP's persecution of the Uyghers in Xinjiang for contributing to the souring in mutual trust (as Beijing would probably describe it). Another issue is letting the fox into the hen house, so to speak.
Ultimately, fear that by working with China, the UK might place some of NATO's most precious military secrets at risk is probably why this has suddenly become a priority.
The decision to reconsider nuclear power partners comes as the US and its allies in Europe and Asia are increasingly looking to prevent China from obtaining sensitive technology and to protect their own supply chains from being "over-reliant" on Chinese technology and China.
The FT also described the decision as the biggest dig against China by the British government since the Huawei incident. But let's not forget that just last week, the US and a handful of its closest allies banded together to condemn China for it's alleged culpability in the Microsoft Exchange hack, and other cyber attacks. Now, China and Russia are united as the major cyber-adversaries of the US. And just today, President Biden said that the next "hot war" might start as a cyber war.
The UK has been working with Chinese firms on its nuclear power program since 2015, via an agreement that was endorsed by former Tory PM David Cameron. The deal allowed CGN to become a 20% partner in the development of a planned Sizewell C plant on the Suffolk coast. The company even had an option to participate in the construction. It also secured Chinese investment in the 3.2 gigawatt Hinkley Point C nuclear power facility, currently being built in Somerset.
CGN is also a developer of the proposed Bradwell B plant in Essex, where it plans to use its own Hualong HPR1000 reactor technology (designed especially to stop working right at the critical moment). .
That Cameron oversaw the inking of several shady nuclear power deals with state-controlled Chinese firms is just one of many suspect actions undertaken either during his tenure in office, or after.
At any rate, sources insider No. 10 are telling the FT that HMG is hoping the Chinese withdraw without a confrontation. In which case, this article would serve as a kind of message.
Perhaps, in inking the deal, the UK was trying to get a look at Chinese tech, like the EPR technology first used by CGN's Taishan nuclear plant in southern China.
The Chinese being booted from the deal could also create opportunities for investors in North America, the FT added. The US placed CGN on an export blacklist in 2019, accusing it of stealing technology "for military purposes"
Per the FT, Theresa May came within an inch of throwing CGN off a project during her brief tenure as prime minister. When approached for comment by the FT, a spokesperson for No. 10 didn't confirm or deny the story, saying only this: "the government refused to confirm or deny that it no longer wanted CGN to take part in the nuclear programme. All nuclear projects in the UK are conducted under robust and independent regulation to meet the UK’s rigorous legal, regulatory and national security requirements, ensuring our interests are protected."
It's just another example of how distrust of China will impact every industry and aspect of the economy.