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Is the UK about to end its special relationship with China?

UK and China

​China's growing importance on the world stage is now undeniable, with the Far East now credited as having a key role in driving the economies across the world.

This trend has been felt particularly strongly in the UK, where the government has been very keen to stress the potential benefits on offer to Chinese investors.

The country's steel industry is arguably the strongest example of China's influence in the UK is it's grip on what was a once booming British steel industry, which in light of the collapse of Tata has attracted plenty of criticism.

Nevertheless, a post-Brexit UK is desperately on the lookout for a strong economic partner, and China certainly fits the bill. However, while politically the UK has changed dramatically in recent months, with China seemingly uneasy about the prospect of Britain taking itself out of the decision-making process within the European Union.

Going nuclear

While there are technically a whole number of reasons for relations to fray between the UK and China, a recent deal on China's involvement in in the UK's nuclear power generation is perhaps the standout moment in the new era of British-Chinese relations.

Chinese money had previously been named as a key contributor to a new power station set to be built with French technology at Hinkley, with the UK poised to purchase Chinese technology for another facility in Essex.

The deal would have potentially been a significant breakthrough for China, giving it the chance to have power in helping to have a say on the infrastructural capabilities of a western nation.

However, new prime minister Theresa May appears to have stifled those plans, amid concerns over the implications to security from allowing China access to such a sensitive area for the UK.

As soon as the May's decision to halt the plans emerged, a number of other countries decided to follow suit, cancelling their own projects. Australia decide to end Chinese involvement in its own energy sector while the US announced the principle Chinese firm involved in the Hinkley Point venture was subject to espionage concerns.

Meanwhile, Japan's foreign minister has already warned that ties with China are "significantly deteriorating" due to Chinese vessels reportedly repeatedly entering disputed waters in the East China Sea.

It would therefore seem that forming a friendship with China has perhaps become slightly unfashionable. However, there seems to be one country that is a little more reluctant to turn its back.

Germany still friendly (for now)

While there is little doubt that German chancellor Angela Merkel will find her visit for next month's G20 summit in Hangzhou one of her most challenging yet, there is a real feeling that the two countries are still keen on strengthening ties.

With the challenges of the ongoing refugee crisis compounded by Britain's recent decision to leave the European Union, Merkel is convinced the world's second-largest economy and Europe's biggest economy can do a lot for each other.

Merkel has visited China more than any other German chancellor in history, which arguably highlights her special link with the nation, which she will be hoping to call upon as the political climate across Europe becomes increasingly uncertain.

However, even the previously steady relationship between the two parties is now looking under threat.

Cui Hongjian, director of European studies at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post: “Merkel has found herself confronted with many fresh challenges, such as the sudden influx of a large number of migrants and refugees and the heightened threat of terrorism across the continent.

“Germany has apparently given high priority to its European problems over the importance of China-German relations as negative perceptions of China have picked up across Europe.”