The Huawei affair has revived the unresolved question of whether the non-Chinese world can trust Chinese companies as the country becomes an industrial superpower. The US has cited Huawei’s alleged breaches of Iranian sanctions to request the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, from Canada, but it is clear that the real concern is about the ability of Huawei’s advanced technology to gather information. The US, Australia and New Zealand have already banned Huawei from future G5 mobile projects. The UK will soon have to face up to an additional aspect of the issue as a key decision approaches on Chinese plans to build a series of civil nuclear reactors in Britain, starting with Bradwell B on the site of a former air base in Essex. But what happens next is not simply a matter for the US and the UK. China itself must decide what place in the world it wants. For the UK, the test of whether to follow the American line will focus not just on Huawei but also on the proposed development of Bradwell B. The plant is intended to be a joint project between the Chinese nuclear company CGN and France’s EDF, with CGN set to own 66.5 per cent of the venture and use its HPR 1000 nuclear reactor. CGN is, on its own estimation, the world’s third largest nuclear power company but its operations have so far been concentrated in China and Bradwell would be a flagship project for its international ambitions. The HPR Hualong design is going through the assessment process required by the UK nuclear regulator, but there is no reason to suppose it will fail on technical grounds. For the moment, CGN’s plans to build Bradwell B are going ahead but warning signs are appearing. The company was not encouraged to take up the option of developing the planned nuclear project at Moorside in Cumbria that was abandoned by Toshiba in November. The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission has said the need for new nuclear is much less clear than envisaged in 2013 when the current plans were drawn up.
FT 7th Jan 2019 read more »