Tuesday 24 November 2020 10:01 pm

Chinese business group calls for 'new chapter' in UK relationship

The chief executive of the UK arm of the Bank of China has called for a “new chapter” in the relationship between the two nations after a year of increasing political tension.

Relations between the UK and China have soured this year, with both the domestic and overseas activities of the world’s second largest economy under deeper scrutiny.

In July, Boris Johnson took the decision to ban telecoms giant Huawei from playing any role in the development of the UK’s 5G infrastructure over security concerns.

MPs have also turned their attention to state-owned China General Nuclear’s role in building the UK’s new fleet of nuclear plants, with particular concerns about plans to build a Chinese-designed reactor at Bradwell B in Essex.

The two have also clashed over the imposition of a draconian new security law in Hong Kong, as well as the China’s persecution of its Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang.

Fang Wenjan, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK) and the Bank of China’s boss, said that the decline in relations could force some firms out of the UK.

Writing in City A.M., he said: “Our two great nations have numerous shared interests, values and objectives. 

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“And I truly believe that with the right, pragmatic approach and positive mindset, the relationship can grow, helping to create greater business opportunity and economic value for all of us.”

He said that Chinese firms were “ready to help the Prime Minister achieve his vision and “build, back, better” post-Brexit”.

An accompanying study by the CCCUK found that 83 per cent of Chinese firms in the UK say that growing their existing business is among their top priorities, with 95 per cent viewing the UK as a crucial part of their global operations.

In addition, 44 per cent of firm’s surveyed said that 44 per cent of those surveyed claimed a No Deal would have no impact whatsoever on their investment plans in Britain.

Fang’s words came days after he told the Sunday Times that the UK could lose billions in investment if it did not change reverse its growing hostility towards China.

Fang also said that Chinese firms could play a big role in helping the UK to achieve its 2050 net zero target.

He warned that by “turning your back on CGN for example you close the door to leading edge technology in this area, funding and make it harder to bring emissions down”.

Chinese firms are “ready to make a big and substantial investment in the UK by building other plants such as the one proposed at Bradwell”, he added.

The top 800 Chinese companies currently employ 70,000 people in the UK, with combined turnover in the region of £90bn a year.

Fang also pointed to Jingye’s rescue of bankrupt British Steel as an example of the benefits Chinese business could bring to the UK.