20 Oct 2015

Cameron off the naughty step with China

David Cameron didn’t enjoy his extended spell on the naughty step with China. He resented the Foreign Office failing to tip him off that meeting the Dalai Lama in 2012 would make him persona non grata in Beijing. The FCO thought a short snub would follow but China’s sense of self-worth had grown.

Since the reprieve, David Cameron and George Osborne have thrown themselves at the economic superpower making up for lost time.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth introduces dignitaries to  China's President Xi Jinping's during his official welcome ceremony in central London, Britain

On The Mall today, pro-Tibet demonstrators were massively outnumbered by a well-planned bussed-in deluge of pro-regime supporters from all over the country.

They were supplied with jumbo flags, matching t-shirts, stickers and banners which from the boxes I saw look like they’ve been imported from China via the Embassy. Regime critics were angered by the demonstration of strength.

They had an ally in Parliament in Speaker Bercow who made heavy play in his introduction for the Chinese president about how the “champion of democracy,” Aung San Suu Kyi, had recently preceded him.

President Xi emphasised that China had an ancient tradition of law that went back much further than Britain’s democracy. He said he hoped British-China relations had “an ever brighter future.”

Later in the trip the government hopes to announce a final go-ahead for the nuclear power stations deal – part Chinese-financed in the case of Hinckley, and Chinese built and designed in the case of Bradwell.

I asked someone with experience at the heart of the Department of Energy and Climate Change how they’d assessed whether Chinese nuclear reactors were reliable and he said it was “hard to judge,” but they seem okay “as far as we know”

There have been quite a few questions raised over time – some here – but then the French-designed nuclear power stations being lined up for Hinckley are a bit of an unknown quantity, the source said: “We know it’s safe … we don’t know if it works.”

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