Research Manager

Most British people say we should seek closer trading relations with all countries equally – but 18% say we should prioritise a special relationship with China

George Osborne has led a major UK delegation for a week-long tour of China to promote economic and cultural cooperation between two countries. Britain and China have long economic and cultural ties. According to the FCO, the UK attracted nearly $12 billion of Chinese foreign direct investment in 2013, more than France and Germany combined. In 2014, the UK issued more than 413,000 visas to Chinese nationals while almost 20,000 British nationals are registered as living in China. According to the Chancellor, “it’s in Britain’s interest to bond with China now”.

A new YouGov Daily poll finds 67% feel we should seek closer relations with “all nations equally”, but just under one in five say the relationship between UK and China has special importance. A stronger link between London and Beijing is opposed by 8%.

One of the projects agreed during the chancellors’ visit was a £2bn deal for China to invest in the Hinkley Point nuclear plant. The power station would be Britain's first new nuclear plant for two decades and is expected to provide power for the next 60 years.

This issue, however, split the public. 31% of British people support the building of the plant and agree it is good for China to invest, while 28% support the project but are against a Chinese investment. Just over one in ten disapprove of new nuclear power plants but if that is going to be done they would support Chinese investment. One in five, however, disapprove of both the power plant and Chinese investing in British infrastructure.

The topic of Chinese investment in the UK economy initiated quite a few responses from the users of YouGov Daily who pointed out that, although it builds infrastructure faster, it is behind Britain in safety records, as well as in protecting environmental standards. The difference in approach between UK and China to labour exploitation issues and seizing land was also pointed out.

China has already invested £11.7bn in Britain between 2005 and 2013. Official data shows that the world’s second economy accounts for 3.6% of UK exports and is the UK’s 6th biggest goods export market. A report from 2014 stated China is set to invest £105bn in UK infrastructure by 2025.

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