Britain was great when it owned much of the world, drawing interest from foreign government bonds and dividends on shares in foreign railways, plantations and factories.
Today, China wants to invest in Britain, over one hundred billion pounds in the next few years, according to President Xi, all of which, Xi threatens, will be jeopardized if Britain nixes a Chinese-financed nuclear power plant just up-wind of London.
During the 19th Century, the Brits and other Western nations bullied and exploited China outrageously, and President Xi no doubt relishes the prospect of pay-back. But the West is not finished yet and it is clearly time for Britain's new PM to prove her metal by telling President Xi to go piss up a rope.
The Chinese owned, French-built, Hinkley Point C power plant that Britain's feeble-minded Cameron administration was about to approve constitutes an existential risk to the British nation (as do many other nuclear installations in Britain, especially the nuclear fuels processing plant at Windscale* in Cumberland**, which has contaminated Norwegian lobsters with technetium-99 and the teeth of children across the British Isles with plutonium).
The Hinkley Point deal that President Xi so imperiously demands Britain's new government sign gives the Chinese government a guaranteed return on the money it will print to finance the plant. And the guaranteed rate makes the deal's an absolute winner for China. For the Brits, its a total economic disaster. The power will be sold at a guaranteed price of 9.25 pence per kilowatt hour, the price to be adjusted upward in line with inflation. But that's not the price consumers will pay. It's the wholesale price for base-load power, which is a mere fraction of the retail price of power and about twice the cost of power from gas turbine generators.
Nuclear power is not a safe or economic route to reduced carbon dioxide emissions, which can be achieved simply by the promotion of energy efficiency. As I explained yesterday, all the emissions reduction that might be achieved with the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant can be achieved by replacing ten percent of Britain's gasoline/petro-driven cars with electric cars.
The transition to electric road transport can be achieved in multiple ways: incentives to electric car buyers, every widening restrictions to the use of gasoline/petro-powered vehicles in urban areas, or ever higher fuel taxes. In addition, governments can promote a transition from car ownership to reliance on autonomous electric taxis in urban areas, which would greatly reduce the cost of travel, while make possible a wholesale conversion to electric propulsion.
* A fire at the Windscale nuclear fuels plant on 10 October 1957 was the worst nuclear accident in Great Britain's history, ranking in severity at level 5 out of a possible 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The change in name of the plant from Windscale to Sellerfield, which was made in 1981, was a PR maneuver intended to confuse and distract those demanding the plant be decommissioned.
** The English administrative district, or county, of Cumberland, which was created in the Thirteenth Century, was abolished for some petty bureaucratic reason by the disastrous administration of Ted Heath in the early 1970's, an administration which, among its other stupidities, took Britain into the European Union, or Common Market as it was then called, in the pretense that the Union was not always intended to transition to an undemocratic political union.
Max Hastings: Espionage. Repression. It would be sheer folly to do nuclear deals with the Chinese