The Chinese ambassador to the UK has raised the stakes in terms of future trade and investment relations between both nations, by identifying the forthcoming decision on Hinkley Point C as a ‘crucial juncture.’

Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, drew a clear link between Beijing’s desire to see an early go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley Point C power project and the future of the UK-China relationship.

“Right now, the China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture … I hope the UK will keep its door open to China,” Mr Liu wrote in the Financial Times.

He added that he hoped Theresa May’s government would “continue to support Hinkley Point — and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly.”

The UK government’s decision to delay the nuclear power plant decision, despite EDF approving the final investment decision on the plant, was a surprise.

May’s predecessors David Cameron and George Osborne were very much focused on facilitating China’s investment generally across the British economy, including the nuclear sector.

The FT reports that any cancellation of the Hinkley deal would be likely to jeopardise other planned Chinese investments in the UK, according to Chinese officials, who declined to be identified. Nearly £40bn in investment deals and contracts were secured for the UK during the recent Chinese state visit.

Noting that over the past five years, Chinese companies have invested more in the UK than in Germany, France and Italy combined, Mr Liu said that trust and respect needed to be “treasured even more” as the UK decides on the Hinkley project.

“If Britain’s openness is a condition for bilateral co-operation, then mutual trust is the very foundation on which this is built,” Mr Liu said.

There has been speculation that one of May’s chief advisers, Nick Timothy, is sceptical about Chinese intentions. He has previously stated, prior to entering government that Chinese-owned companies involved at Hinkley and other planned nuclear plants could “build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will”.