China’s president has called for an “appropriate” handling of disputes with the UK amid diplomatic tensions between the two sides over the new British premier’s decision to postpone a Beijing-backed nuclear power plant project.
In a first face to face meeting, Xi Jinping told Theresa May that the two countries need to “increase political mutual trust, expand common interests and appropriately handle disputes.”
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on Monday.
Xi further said Beijing was willing to work with the UK to lift the “global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century” between the two countries to a higher level.
The Chinese leader added that the two countries’ cooperation could benefit not only the two nations, but also world peace and development.
For her part, May also said the two countries are in the “Golden Era” for bilateral ties and affirmed that London seeks close cooperation with Beijing in different areas, including trade, investment and finance.
According to sources, the Chinese president also told May that he was willing to show “patience” with her government, although he did not directly mention the delayed $24-billion nuclear energy project agreed last year.
Since taking office, May has delayed the construction of the power plant that was scheduled to be built at Hinkley Point by the French firm, EDF, with the help of $8 billion in investment by state-owned Chinese firms.
The premier has called on her security advisers to review the project.
Some of May’s advisers formerly raised security concerns over Beijing’s role in the project, saying it would give China access to computer systems of Britain’s energy production.
London has said a decision on the project is expected later this month.
UK officials had earlier said May would not bring up the issue during the talks with Xi, fueling speculations that the plan could be scrapped or drastically changed.
This is while Britain has been facing political and economic crises since the June 23 Brexit vote, which obliges the county to leave the 28-member European Union after 43 years of membership.
May wrote a letter to Xi last month to reassure him of her government’s commitment to actively deepening comprehensive strategic partnership and enhancing mutual understanding and trust.