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China talks to Cameron about building HS2

China: we’ll help Britain build HS2 rail line

Talks: Chinese premier Li Keqiang and David Cameron in Beijing today

China today revealed it wants to pour billions of pounds into the HS2 rail line between London and the North.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang declared that his country could fund or even help to build the troubled project. He appeared to take British ministers by surprise, with officials in London saying there was no deal on the table.

Chinese investment could prove controversial by enlarging the foreign stake in major British infrastructure, including nuclear power. David Cameron said “no country in the world is more open to Chinese investment than the UK”.

The dramatic exchange came at the start of the biggest trade delegation yet to China, with the Prime Minister taking 131 business figures on his plane.

Political opposition to High Speed 2 sharpened with a think-tank that has close links to the Lib-Dem leadership calling for it to be scrapped.

The Centre Forum report said the money could be better spent elsewhere. “The current £50?billion plus price tag on HS2 would fund a large number of worthwhile projects if HS2 were scrapped,” it said.

After talks in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Mr Li said: “The two sides have agreed to push for breakthroughs and progress in the co-operation between our enterprises on nuclear power and high-speed rail.

“The Chinese side is willing to not only participate in but also purchase equities and stocks in UK power projects.” Over the past five years China has built the largest high-speed rail network in the world covering nearly 6,000 miles of track and is now attempting to sell its technologies to countries from Brazil to Thailand.

But its record was marred by a crash which killed at least 40 people in 2011 and a corruption scandal.

Britain’s Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited Beijing to hold talks with the Chinese government in October.  Mr Cameron said last week that he would welcome any potential Chinese involvement in HS2.

“I’m very interested in what’s happening in terms of high-speed rail in China,” he said during a visit to a Chinese exhibition at the V&A.

“It seems to be an absolute high-speed revolution taking place. In terms of HS2, I very much welcome Chinese investment into British infrastructure.”

Mr Cameron is attempting to use his second official visit to China to win deals and mend fences following his controversial meeting with Tibet’s spiritual leader Dalai Lama last year.

In a sharp dig at other EU leaders who are suspicious of what they see as Chinese expansionism, Mr Cameron said he was “proud of Chinese investment” in Britain covering such areas such as energy and construction. He added he would be pushing for a comprehensive EU/China trade deal. “Some in Europe and elsewhere see the world changing and want to shut China off behind a bamboo curtain of trade barriers,” he said.  “Britain wants to tear those trade barriers down.”

Mr Cameron, who arrived in Beijing pledging to act as China’s strongest advocate in the West, started the day by visiting the Chinese headquarters of Jaguar Land Rover. He then met Mr Li at the Great Hall of the People for talks and lunch. A Union Jack was displayed near a portrait of late Mao Zedong.

Mr Cameron is due to have dinner with president Xi Jinping before heading to Shanghai.

During his press conference Mr Cameron made only a passing mention of human rights.

The Prime Minister opened his remarks at the Great Hall of the People by echoing Mr Xi’s call for a  Chinese dream.

He said: “China’s transformation is one of the defining facts of our lifetime. The pace and scale of economic development and urbanisation dwarfs the British industrial revolution of two centuries ago.

“I see China’s rise as an opportunity not just for the people of this country but for Britain and for the world.

“Britain wants China to realise its dream and I believe we can help each other succeed in the global race.

“An open Britain is the ideal partner for an opening China?...?No country in the world is more open to Chinese investment than the UK.”

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