The government’s decision over whether or not to proceed with Hinkley Point C will be a test of trust between the UK and China, the Chinese ambassador to the UK has warned.

Both countries have “consistently respected and trusted each other” but right now the relationship between the two is at a “crucial historical juncture”.

“Britain takes pride in being a country that is open to foreign investors,” Liu Xiaoming wrote in the Financial Times, and “it is exactly because of such openness that China has become the UK’s second-largest non-European trading partner.”

Seeking to give assurances over the issue of security, Xiaoming said China had a “fine record of 30 years of safe operation of nuclear facilities” and that its nuclear programme was “highly acknowledged” by international agencies. 

Thanks to international standards, he said there has never been any concern over foreign companies being involved in China’s nuclear industry. Its rapid progress is “proof of the success of international cooperation”.

He concluded: “Right now, the China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture. Mutual trust should be treasured even more.

“I hope the UK will keep its door open to China and that the British government will continue to support Hinkley Point — and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly.”

Following years of delays, EDF made a final investment decision on the new nuclear plant in Somerset towards the end of the July. Within hours the government announced its final decision would be delayed, rather than taking place immediately, as was widely expected. The postponement was slammed by unions as “incomprehensible”.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has a 33.5 per cent stake in the £18 billion project and China National Nuclear Corporation is also expected to take a large stake once a final investment decision is made.

The warning from the ambassador follows reports in the Telegraph that the new prime minister had a “general prejudice” against Chinese investment whilst she was home secretary under David Cameron. She wanted to imitate US rules preventing foreign takeovers that could jeopardise national security, former business secretary Vince Cable was quoted as saying.

What to read next