David Cameron has defended his decision to do business with China, as he hailed the completion of a multi-billion pound deal for the far eastern giant to invest in a new nuclear power station in Somerset.
The Prime Minister has come under fire during President Xi Jinping’s four-day state visit to the UK over the impact of the dumping of cheap Chinese steel on the British industry.
And he has faced questions over his decision to allow the communist state to take a stake in key elements of British national infrastructure, like power supply.
But speaking alongside Mr Xi following talks at 10 Downing Street, the PM insisted that the UK-China relationship was good for both countries, and that there was no need to choose between supporting British steelworkers and trading with China.
Meanwhile, Mr Xi defended his country’s record on human rights, insisting that the People’s Republic was following “a path of human rights development suited to China’s national conditions”.
French energy giant EDF announced it had signed an investment agreement with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) to build the new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, where power generation will begin in 2025.
CGN will take a 33.5% share in the £18 billion plant, the first in what is expected to be a new generation of civil nuclear power plants in the UK.
Mr Cameron said there was no contradiction between forging closer relations with China and raising concerns about issues like steel and human rights.
” I totally reject the idea you either have a conversation about human rights and steel or you have a strong relationship with China,” said the PM.
“I want both and we are delivering both and it’s when you have that strong relationship that you are able to discuss all of these issues.”
Mr Cameron said: “A strong relationship is in both our countries’ interests not just because it brings investment and jobs and higher living standards for our peoples – vital though these things are.
“The more we trade together, the more we have a stake in each others’ success and the more we understand each other, the more we can work together to confront the problems that face our world today.
“The stronger the relationship between our countries, the more we will be able to have a serious dialogue. We may not always agree, but we can discuss issues openly and constructively.”
China’s investment in Hinkley Point forms part of what the Government hopes will amount altogether to £30 billion of agreements during the four-day visit.
But the lavish welcome given to the president has been attacked as a ”national humiliation” by Mr Cameron’s former close adviser Steve Hilton, who said Britain should be imposing sanctions on China rather than granting its leader red-carpet treatment.
The Downing Street talks came after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge treated Mr Xi to a display of British cultural icons, including James Bond’s car and Doctor Who’s Tardis.
The UK Trade & Investment exhibition at London’s Lancaster House included everything from an outlandish hat by leading British milliner Philip Treacy, a Dalek, a red London bus, and a black cab.
William, Kate, Mr Xi and Madame Peng were also given a sneak preview of a crucial scene from the next series of hit TV show Poldark, performed live by cast members Heida Reed, who plays Elizabeth, and Jack Farthing, who portrays Poldark’s nemesis George.
Chinese martial arts film legend Jackie Chan, who met the Cambridges, Mr Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, said the state visit would help cultural exchange between the two countries.
“Right now, China is one of the bigger markets,” said Chan. “Collaboration really helps me to create new ideas.”
The Cambridges and the Chinese delegation were also shown how London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is working with the state-owned China Merchants Group to create a design museum, due to open in 2017, in the city of Shenzhen.
And they met characters from amusements run by Alton Towers operator Merlin Entertainments, which has signed an agreement to establish a Legoland park in Shanghai.
At the end of the tour the Cambridges and the president and his wife enjoyed a colourful performance by Chinese singers and dancers and William presented the Chinese leader with a specially commissioned painting from Bafta, visualising creative collaboration between the two countries.
Photo from Suzanne Plunkett / PA Wire