By CGTN’s Richard Bestic
The Belt and Road cooperation is set to be “highlight” of Sino-UK ties. In March, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom said China views the UK as "a country of global influence" and an important partner for the Belt and Road Initiative, while the UK ambassador to China said the UK expects to forge concrete cooperation plans with China in the grand blueprint for the Belt and Road Initiative.
The first China-Europe train from London arrives at Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, China, April 29, 2017. /VCG Photo.
Last year, UK law firm Herbert Smith Freehills was involved in the Silk Road Fund's acquisition of a stake in Novatek, a natural gas producer in Russia. Meanwhile, in October, the London Metal Exchange, the global center for industrial metals trading, agreed to invest in warehouse construction along the Belt and Road routes.
Moreover, for the governments of the UK and China, the 25 billion US dollars Hinckley Point nuclear power station could act as a possible trigger for a further eight nuclear power stations, some entirely paid for and built by China. Financed jointly by the Chinese and the French, it’s a significant step towards building the UK’s first new nuclear power plant in very nearly three decades.
It could prove to be not just a renaissance for the nuclear power industry here, but also for longer term Sino-UK industrial links. In the remote countryside of Britain’s South West countryside, construction has started. And the site has effectively become a small town, with vast enterprises creating jobs on such a scale.
“We’ve got over 1,600 people on the site, but from here it really steps up for what we call ‘J Zero’ when we pour the raft for the nuclear island,” said Nigel Cann, the Hinckley Point Development Director.
British companies remain active in Belt and Road in not only focusing on the energy and infrastructure sectors, but also zooming in on banking and financial services.
The latest report from the SWIFT Renminbi Tracker, which has been monitoring the internationalization of China’s currency since 2011, London is the largest RMB payment center outside of Greater China and in Europe its dominant. Half of all the UK’s financial institutions are using the currency for deals with China, according to SWIFT.
The numbers of transactions are growing as well, albeit slowly. According to ‘City of London’ policy chief, Mark Boleat, it makes the UK capital a major player in the movement of China’s RMB currency.
Bilateral trade between China and the UK has surpassed 60 billion pounds (74.5 billion US dollars) in each of the last two years, having increased more than two and a half times in 10 years. Recent reports show that the UK received almost 25 percent of China's entire inward stock of investment to the EU last year.
In London, an array of investments in the Belt and Road are playing a part in maintaining what SWIFT calls the UK’s premier position as a hub for dealings in the Chinese currency, made possible by China’s construction muscle and the UK’s financial expertise.