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21Oct15


Xi Jinping state visit: UK and China sign cybersecurity pact


China has agreed not to conduct cyber-espionage against UK companies and to invest billions in a new nuclear power plant in Britain, following talks between David Cameron and President Xi Jinping in Downing Street.

Cameron said the two nations had signed a "high-level security dialogue" on cybercrime, aimed at stopping attacks on companies either to gain access to intellectual property or confidential information or to disable systems.

The deal mirrors one agreed between China and the US last month, but which the American monitoring group CrowdStrike believes was violated almost immediately.

GCHQ has reported "disturbing" levels of cyber-attacks on British companies, which are thought mostly to originate in Russia and China.

The agreement is the first time that Britain and China have committed to work together on cybersecurity.

Cameron hailed the greater cooperation along with billions of pounds in trade deals that are being signed by British and Chinese companies during Xi's four-day state visit to Britain.

The flagship announcement is a 6bn investment by a Chinese state company in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, which is due to be built by around 2025.

At a joint press conference in Downing Street, Cameron hailed the strong relationship between the two countries following a private lunch and bilateral talks with Xi.

In the single question allowed from UK journalists to each leader, the BBC pressed Xi on why the British public should be pleased about such a high level of cooperation with an undemocratic country with a deeply troubling record on human rights.

Cameron was asked how a steelmaker who had lost their job might feel about the pomp and extravagance accorded to the Chinese president, when his country stands accused of helping fuel the crisis in the British steel industry.

The prime minister responded with a forceful defence of the UK's decision to push for closer ties with China. "I reject the [premise] that you either have a conversation on human rights and steel or you have a strong relationship. I want both," he said.

Downing Street confirmed Cameron raised the issue of human rights with China, which has been condemned internationally by campaign groups over the detention of hundreds of its critics earlier this year.

However, Cameron's official spokeswoman refused to say how Cameron approached the subject, whether he raised the plight of any particular people, and even whether the discussions lasted for longer than a minute.

Xi then directly addressed the issue of human rights, saying there were always ways of doing better. "Coming to the human rights issue, China attaches create importance to human rights. We have found a path suited to China's conditions," he said.

"There is always room for improvement in the world. China is ready to increase co-operation with UK and other countries over human rights."

The president mounted a defence of China's steel strategy, saying his country was also facing job losses because a global fall in demand.

"I want to answer the steel question. The world is seeing an oversupply [of steel] following the financial crisis. China also has overcapacity," he said. "We have taken a series of steps [to remedy this]. We have cut 700m tonnes of production capacity. You can imagine the task of finding jobs for those workers.

"The UK is an important partner for China. Our investment [in the UK reached] 12.8bn [yuan] by 2014. Our future investments will create further jobs. We want to avoid protectionist measures."

[Source: By Rowena Mason, Political correspondent, The Guardian, London, 21Oct15]

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