UK pushing China out of new nuclear project

Government announcement of ousting China from Sizewell project comes after Rishi Sunak says 'golden era' between UK and China is over.

UK pushing China out of new nuclear project

The UK will exclude China from the development of the country’s new nuclear energy project by owning 50% of the stakes and seeking new third-party investment to finance the construction and operation, according to an official statement on Tuesday.

The agreement with the owner of the EDF -- the British integrated energy company -- means the exclusion of China General Nuclear (CGN) from the project, with CGN selling its 20% development stake.

"Once complete, this mega project will power millions of homes with clean, affordable, home-grown energy for decades to come," British finance minister Jeremy Hunt said in a statement.

The statement confirmed that the UK will provide around £700 million ($842 million) to the Sizewell C nuclear plant in southeastern England.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signaled on Monday that the “golden era” between the UK and China has ended, referring to a term coined in 2015 by his predecessor David Cameron.

In a speech in London, Sunak added that “the naive idea that trade would lead to social and political reform” in China is also over.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, an annual event where the prime minister addresses business leaders, international dignitaries, and foreign policy experts, Sunak said China poses a "systemic challenge" to UK "values and interests."

Sunak’s speech came after the government condemned China amid reports of a BBC journalist being beaten by police and detained briefly during coverage of COVID-19 lockdown protests.

"Instead of listening to their people’s protests, the Chinese government has chosen to crack down further, including by assaulting a BBC journalist,” Sunak said.

"The media – and our parliamentarians – must be able to highlight these issues without sanction, including calling out abuses in Xinjiang – and the curtailment of freedom in Hong Kong," he added, referring to a northwestern province with a large population of Uyghur Muslims.

During the Tory leadership race this summer, Sunak called China “the biggest-long term threat to Britain and the world’s economic and national security.”