UK’s leaders accused of 'China-phobia' over delayed nuclear deal

Getty Images

The ongoing war of words between Beijing and the U.K. over an apparent reluctance to develop a new nuclear plant in the west of England has escalated, with a piece in Chinese state-backed news outlet Xinhua accusing the U.K. of "China-phobia".

The surprise announcement last month that the U.K. was delaying a decision on a planned nuclear power plant at Hinkley, in which China is one of the major investors, has thrown what had looked like a new golden era of relations between the two countries into apparent disarray.

"London's misgivings over Chinese involvement in its key infrastructure is yet another stroke of China-phobia," the Xinhua editorial, by writer Zhu Junqing, argued.

Theresa May, who succeeded David Cameron as Prime Minister in July after he resigned following the surprise vote by the U.K. to leave the European Union, wrote to China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang this week to smooth ruffled feathers. This move was praised as "a laudable first move in the right direction" by the Xinhua piece.

The new Prime Minister will travel to China in September for a G20 summit.

She had previously not been part of the heavy courting of China by her predecessor, and one of her top aides, Nick Timothy, had published articles warning of the security implications of involving China in the U.K.'s nuclear plans.

"It is impossible and commercially suicidal for the Chinese side to manipulate the project at its own will," Zhu wrote.

The author also warned: "After divorcing the EU, Britain would be foolish to decline stronger trade ties with China."