Chinese investment in UK assets like businesses, infrastructure and property has reached an estimated £135bn – almost double what was previously thought.
About £44bn of this investment has come from state-owned firms, with many of the purchases happening over the past two years.
An investigation from the Sunday Times found that Chinese and Hong Kong investors own stakes in vital UK infrastructure providers like Thames Water and Heathrow Airport, along with £57bn worth of shares in blue chip FTSE100 firms.
The estimated £135bn value of Chinese ownership in the UK trumps the previous £71bn estimate by the Washington D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute.
Tory MP, and prominent China critic, told the Times: “This demonstrates that successive governments have been asleep on the watch. This evidence today shows how dangerously we are sailing towards Chinese control of key aspects of our business.
“China poses the single greatest strategic threat to the UK and the free world and we must make sure that we understand exactly how they set about essentially controlling key areas of economies, not only in the UK but also abroad.”
The UK’s relationship with China has become increasingly frosty over the past year and a half, with foreign secretary Dominic Raab levelling sanctions on Beijing for its ethnic cleansing campaign against the country’s Uyghur Muslims and for its freedom of speech clampdown in Hong Kong.
Boris Johnson also moved to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from helping build the UK’s 5G infrastructure based on fears that Beijing may use the network for espionage purposes – a charge Huawei denies.
However, the government’s integrated review of foreign and defence policy this year appeared to extend an olive branch to the Chinese government.
The review said the UK would “invest in enhanced China facing capabilities”, while adding that “open, trading economies like the UK will need to engage with China and remain open to Chinese trade and investment”.
China was also labelled as a “systemic challenge” in the review and not a threat to security, such a countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Intelligence and Security committee chair, and Tory MP, Julian Lewis at the time criticised Johnson for displaying “the grasping naivety of the Cameron-Osborne years” when it came to China.