Europe

China’s grip on UK’s ‘green revolution’ uncovered as fears surge over ‘falling into trap’

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously outlined his ‘Ten Point Plan’ to create 250,000 British jobs in clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies to allow the UK to reach the legally binding net-zero target by 2050. At the centre of his ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ are the UK’s industrial heartlands which will “drive forward the green industrial revolution and build green jobs and industries of the future”. Just days ago, Japanese car manufacturer Nissan confirmed it was creating 400 jobs at its Sunderland plant after announcing it was investing £1billion in the Wearside site.

In June, it was also revealed that Nissan’s Chinese partner, Envision AESC, will build an electric battery plant as part of that investment.

And it is not the only project that Beijing has influence over.

Ciaran Martin, the former chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, said earlier this week that the purchase of Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-owned Nexperia poses a greater threat to British interests than Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network.

Mr Martin described the future of microchip supply as a “first-order strategic issue” for the Government to get a handle on.

Mr Johnson has asked national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove to look at the deal, worth a reported £63million, but that has not done much to calm the growing concerns.

Senior Conservatives reportedly fear the UK is “falling into a trap” by handing over sensitive aspects of its “green industrial revolution” to China.

They also cite the involvement of China General Nuclear (CGN), who is involved in the building of two nuclear reactors in the UK.

The Chinese state-owned company was hoping to use both projects as a springboard to building a Chinese-designed reactor at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

But Whitehall is said to have cited fears that a Chinese nuclear plant within 30 miles of London would be “politically unpalatable”.

Despite this, The Independent is reporting that there is a “growing Cabinet split” over the threat China poses to Britain’s security.

A senior Government source reportedly said that while doing business with China was essential, some areas are just too sensitive to allow for trade or investment with the world’s second-largest economy.

They add that others, “in both the party and the Cabinet, believe the UK should focus on securing more foreign investment, and see commercial ties as a force for influence over China”.

One senior Tory reportedly said: “There’s a sense that any investment is good investment – that people are somehow being hysterical if they raise worries about the risks China poses to the country.”

But another reportedly added: “This is a country we have reprimanded publicly for attacking sensitive technologies.

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“How are international allies meant to take us seriously if we’re handing Beijing the keys to our green technology revolution?”

Cyber attacks, allegations of genocide against Uyghur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region, and an increased military presence in the Taiwan Strait are all said to have stoked concerns.

Britain has already announced plans to remove technology made by China’s Huawei from its 5G telecoms network by the end of 2027.

Lord Peter Ricketts, a crossbench peer and former national security adviser, told The Independent that Newport will be a “test case” for the Government’s new National Security and Investment Act, which is meant to strengthen its ability to intervene in mergers and acquisitions.

He said: “Most of all it shows up the lack of any mechanism for western governments to coordinate their policy in Chinese investments of potential security concern. 

“Each government seems to be making up their criteria as they go along.”

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