It is interesting to see the fuss in some quarters this week following the decision of the government to approve a new nuclear power station using French technology and Chinese money. “How do we feel depending on domestic power controlled by a totalitarian state half way across the world?” the Today presenter asked anyone prepared to offer an opinion.
It is certainly an interesting question. The Industrial Revolution happened in this country not only because there were plenty of clever engineers with ideas and vision, but because capital was available from people who were not afraid to take risks. Many schemes failed and investors lost their money. When the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable was completed in 1866, it had been as a result of the fifth attempt at connecting the USA with Britain. After four unsuccessful attempts, investors had still been found to raise the capital needed for the enterprise.
Even after the banking crisis, (perhaps because of it), the City of London is awash with money looking for investment opportunities. The fact that none of it was forthcoming to invest in future electricity generation in this country can be for only two reasons: the risks were deemed to be too high, and the returns were not regarded as being adequate.
So there is a rather nice symmetry in the Chinese investing their hard-earned cash – much of it having been provided by UK citizens buying Chinese-made goods – back into the UK economy. If that allows the Chinese government to control our future electricity supply and export profits back to themselves, we can hardly complain. If any criticism is due to anyone, surely it should be aimed at the financiers in the City of London for their greed and lack of entrepreneurial spirit.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs