May calls for next step in '˜golden era' of UK-China relations

Theresa May has reaffirmed her commitment to maintaining the 'golden era' in Britain's relations with China as the Government hosts talks aimed at boosting Beijing's investment in the UK's infrastructure.

Prime Minister Theresa May has proclaimed her commitment to China. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May has proclaimed her commitment to China. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Chancellor Philip Hammond is meeting a Chinese delegation headed by vice premier Ma Kai in London for the eighth UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue as ministers seek to underline that Britain remains “open for business” following the vote for Brexit.

The move will be seen as a fresh attempt to reassure the Chinese after a rocky start to relations under Mrs May.

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One of her first acts on becoming Prime Minister last July was to order a review of the project to build the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant - part-financed by the Chinese - to the intense annoyance of Beijing.

But having finally given the green light to the plant last September, Mrs May has again echoed the deal’s architect, former chancellor George Osborne, in speaking of a “golden era” in Sino-UK relations.

“I’m determined that as we leave the European Union, we build a truly global Britain that is open for business,” she said in a statement ahead of the talks.

“As we take the next step in this golden era of relations between the UK and China, I am excited about the opportunities for expanding trade and investment between our two countries.”

Mr Hammond also used the phrase “golden era” as he said China and the UK remained “natural partners”.

“The mutual benefits are clear,” he said.

“China is the world’s second largest economy; UK exports to China have grown rapidly and Britain is home to more Chinese investment than any other European country.”

Ministers will also showcase another aspect of Mr Osborne’s legacy which Mrs May had previously shown little enthusiasm for with the unveiling of a Northern Powerhouse investment portfolio.

The prospectus will set out details of 13 large-scale property and infrastructure development projects across northern England - each worth more than £100 million - in an attempt to attract Chinese investors.

There will also be an announcement that the Chinese contractor CITIC Construction is to invest £200 million in the first phase of the £1.7 billion London Royal Albert Docks project, headed by the Chinese developer ABP.

The UK will in turn invest up to £40 million in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank based in Beijing, for a fund to help developing countries to prepare infrastructure programmes.