United Kingdom

RUTH SUNDERLAND: Sense at last on terrifying spectre of Beijing role in UK atomic energy 

So the Government is looking at how to remove China from future UK nuclear power projects – well, better late than never!

Beijing – via state-owned China General Nuclear – should never have been involved in such a sensitive industry.

Indeed, I fear this sorry saga is just an extreme example of the incredible naivety of some of our leading politicians towards the People’s Republic.

From the outset it was apparent that allowing China a role in our nuclear new build raised a terrifying spectre: that of a totalitarian state being able to close down a large chunk of the UK’s energy supply.

RUTH SUNDERLAND: Beijing – via state-owned China General Nuclear – should never have been involved in such a sensitive industry (Chinese President Xi Jinping pictured)

The UK’s laissez-faire attitude to overseas takeovers and foreign control has also made other key industries vulnerable to Chinese control, potentially imperilling our national security and economy’s stability.

The slow-dawning realisation of the folly of opening our nuclear energy programme to China is mirrored in the rollout of the 5G network – which after a good deal of prevarication, Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei is being removed from.

That company, whose founder has ties with the People’s Liberation Army and the Communist Party, should never have been allowed to embed itself so deeply into our telecoms infrastructure.

Elsewhere, Britain’s biggest microchip maker, Newport Wafer Fab, will be sold to Chinese company Wingtech unless the Government blocks the £63million deal.

Newport Wafer Fab has more than a dozen UK Government research contracts including one to develop chip technology for a radar system for fighter jets. Boris Johnson has asked national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove to look at the sale – but that is hopelessly tardy as the Chinese have held a big stake for more than two years.

Why, then, do we take such a supine and short-sighted view of China’s desire to buy up our businesses? It’s a mixture of expediency, greed and gullibility.

Ministers may buy a stake in the Sizewell C nuclear power plant (artists design pictured) amid concerns about the involvement of China 's nuclear energy company in key British infrastructure projects

When the Government sold British Steel to Jingye of China, it handily avoided heavy redundancies in ‘red wall’ constituencies in the midst of the 2019 election.

The Chinese regime has brutally clamped down on protests in Hong Kong and is accused of crimes against humanity in its treatment of Uighurs. Its secrecy and obstructive behaviour over the origins of Covid-19 has also provoked deep unease.

Yet the Government shows little desire to intervene until pushed by its own backbenchers or media campaigns.

This attitude stems from a wrong-headed notion that free-market capitalism is the same as giving free rein to predators, chancers and communists. Other countries do not behave so recklessly, and neither should we.

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