The United Kingdom has officially announced that China will be allowed to invest in nuclear plants in the United Kingdom. For now, ownership will be limited to minority stakes, but this could change in the future. This major development highlights the growing power of China and its position as one of the world’s primary funders of mega-scale projects.

China shadow banking

China’s rising power

The growing signs of China’s rising power are becoming all the more apparent with the recent invitations to two state-owned Chinese companies to invest in a nuclear plant in the United Kingdom. Under the deal, the two Chinese firms could take a 30 to 40 percent stake in two reactors being built by Électricité de France SA.

Such a large-scale investment in a critical component of the United Kingdom’s infrastructure demonstrates the growing power and prestige of China. Flush with cash, many indebted developed countries are increasingly turning to China to fund projects and programs. And so far, China has been more than willing to step in and meet demand.

With the European economy down, China has been ramping up investments to meet the demand of cash-starved governments. These investments will greatly increase China’s influence in the region, as state-owned Chinese companies will come to own large portions of the local infrastructure and facilities. With the United States and Europe in decline, it is now becoming more and more apparent that China is destined to join the “great power” club. Indeed, such large-scale investments suggest that China may already be a great power.

United Kingdom going too far

Some critics have wondered if the United Kingdom is going too far by allowing China to invest directly in such crucial components of the country’s infrastructure. Traditionally, many developed countries work to keep key components of the national infrastructure under tight national control. If China and the United Kingdom were to ever get into a conflict, the nuclear plants themselves could become  a sort of weapon, or at least a bargaining tool.

While the United States military is still far more powerful than China’s military, the Middle Kingdom’s growing economic clout is becoming all the more apparent. Across Africa, Asia, and Europe, the Chinese are becoming major investors and business players. At the same time, budget problems and a stagnant economy have begun to force the United States from the global stage, at least in terms of economics.

China’s influence on Asian countries

Within Asia, China has already become the region’s largest “engine of growth.” Most Asian countries now watch for movements in China’s economy, not the United States’, while trying to anticipate global developments. The power conferred by China’s economy now allows it to exert massive amounts of influence on countries across Asia, and indeed the world.

The new nuclear reactors will mark Britain’s first new reactors in over two decades. The United Kingdom plans to build a total of 12 new reactors by 2030. While there have been rising concerns in regards to the safety of nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster, some governments are continuing to push ahead with investments in nuclear power. The reasons are pretty straight forward: oil prices continue to rise and so far nuclear power remains one of the most efficient alternatives.