Restrictions on Chinese companies risk scaring off investors, warns Chinese Ambassador to the UK

China’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Zheng Zeguang has said unfair restrictions placed on Chinese companies, due to “geopolitical and ideological considerations”, go against the spirit of free trade and could scare off potential investors in Britain. Zheng told a forum that Chinese businesses operating in the UK have grown concerned about calls from several politicians and officials to reduce Chinese involvement and investment in certain sectors of the economy. Some British Ministers are seeking to prevent future Chinese investment in nuclear power projects, and the UK has already banned Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies from taking part in upgrades of 5G mobile networks.

“If restrictions are imposed on businesses based on geopolitical or ideological considerations, that could not be a practice of free trade, and you will go against the rules of the World Trade Organization,” Ambassador Zheng said. “Furthermore, they will scare away prospective investors – not something we want to see.” The Ambassador was speaking during the 4th China-UK Economic and Trade Forum, which was hosted online by the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK (CCCUK). During the event, the Chamber launched its 2021 Report on the Development of Chinese Enterprises in the UK, which reveals Chinese companies in Britain continued to show impressive growth and resilience, despite the turbulence brought on by Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and growing trade tensions between major global powers. In the face of these external adversities, 53% of the companies surveyed managed to stabilize or even increase their revenue in 2020 compared with 2019, the report stated, with 63% reporting stable or improved profitability.

The report found that 86% of Chinese companies in the UK believed the disruption brought on by Covid-19 would not last in the long term, with respondents forecasting rapid recoveries over the coming years. Some 94% of the respondents did not anticipate long lasting challenges related to Britain’s departure from the European Union. But companies also expressed an increasing level of anxiety about the shifting geopolitical situation. In particular, the report states, the deterioration in general sentiment toward China is translating into “discriminatory behavior in business interactions on a number of occasions”. There was also the perception that the newly enacted UK National Security and Investment Act was intended to curb Chinese investment. The report surveyed 79 Chinese companies in the UK, of which 49.4% said the business environment in the UK had marginally worsened during the past two years, the China Daily reports.