Chinese deal with French firm Areva lends credibility to country’s nuclear sector

By Song Shengxia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/12 23:53:39

A potential investment by Chinese nuclear power firms in a spinoff of troubled French nuclear group Areva could help boost the financial capability of the French company and create more jobs for France. If the deal is finalized, it will take Sino-France nuclear cooperation to a new level and will serve as a model for future economic cooperation between China and other EU nations.  

EU antitrust regulators recently agreed to the French government's plan to restructure its state-owned nuclear group Areva. According to media reports, China National Nuclear Corporation is in talks with the French government about taking a minority stake in Areva NewCo, a spinoff from Areva. The deal, if it materializes, will be a breakthrough in nuclear cooperation between China and France and will boost Chinese nuclear firms' credibility as they seek to expand overseas.  

This deal is particularly valuable when the overseas presence of China's nuclear companies is being met with skepticism. Western media has questioned the safety and prospect of these projects and exaggerated the environmental threat. Last year, Hinkley Point C project was almost shelved after Britain's new administration expressed concerns about China's role in the project. The project was eventually approved after Britain's government promised to place tighter scrutiny on the project. The twists and turns of Hinkley Point C project show the misunderstandings about Chinese overseas investment. 

It is understandable that some Western countries feel insecure as financially and technologically Chinese firms have become more competitive. Furthermore, their suspicion is further accentuated as they view many investments by Chinese State-owned enterprises as being politically motivated. It could be expected that Chinese overseas adventures won't be plain sailing, especially in highly sensitive sectors such as nuclear energy and information-related technologies. To allay these doubts and suspicions, Chinese businesses should prioritize the safety of their projects and make sure the services they provide are cost effective. They should also try to address concerns about transparency in deals, which will make a significant difference in perceptions about Chinese investment.

Nuclear cooperation between China and France dates back more than 30 years, when France was the first Western country to partner with China. In 2015, the two nations pledged to expand their civil nuclear energy partnership to more areas, including third-generation nuclear reactor designing and nuclear power plant construction.

The latest restructuring program of France's nuclear group provides a good opportunity for Chinese firms to put these pledges into action. They can not only prop up the finances of Areva, reviving the struggling French company and retaining jobs, but can also bolster Chinese credibility in the field.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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