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At what price?

It’s no longer a matter of “if” or “when”, it’s now.

Whether it’s a Chinese contractor being selected to build a billion-pound residential development, another taking a contract on one of the UK’s most ambitious energy projects, or a third rumoured to be bidding to take over our largest construction company, the country’s influence on the sector has become almost ubiquitous.

Just as Chinese imports are being blamed for dismantling the UK’s once-great steel industry, our political leaders have been making nice with premier Xi Jinping in an effort to help get some of his country’s renminbi flowing into British projects.

And that process has started today with the signing of a historic funding deal for the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

China General Nuclear Corporation will plough in £6bn to help build the UK’s first nuclear power station in a generation, with ambition to provide as much as 7 per cent of our electricity needs. The deal could precipitate a fresh wave of Chinese built nuclear plants, dotted along Britain’s coastline.

But not everyone is happy. The Hinkley deal guarantees CGN and French partner EDF a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour for the electricity it produces, more than twice the current cost.

The critics say that this equates to the UK government effectively subsidising - through higher future energy bills - a Chinese company, while it simultaneously has cut subsidies for green energy projects and feels unable to protect steelworkers in the north-east.

Hinkley will provide thousands of jobs. Yet thousands of jobs have been lost in the last two weeks alone in our steel and solar industries.

Take away the understandable levels of emotion - which is not always easy to do - and it’s about whether the economics stack up. Put simply, will the net benefit to Britain of flashing its ankles eastwards outweigh the losses?

I don’t know. But an answer might be found by looking at the single question allowed to a Chinese journalist at today’s painfully stage-managed press conference with Mr Xi and David Cameron.

The journalist asked the Chinese premier about, of all things, the Northern Powerhouse.

It will no doubt have been music to George Osborne’s ears. And if it’s followed by serious investment in the chancellor’s favourite project, then it goes some way to explaining why the government is so keen not to rock the boat.

Not that it will do much good for the workers of Ironopolis.

Deals, deals, deals

It’s been a busy 24 hours on the contracts front. First, deputy editor Tom Fitzpatrick brought exclusive news of a win for Laing O’Rourke on a £500m Royal Mail redevelopment job. Not to be outdone, deputy news editor Robyn Wilson revealed that Mace had swooped for the £400m ‘Gotham City’ contract.

Great Scott!

If you’ve been awake today, you probably will have noticed the excitement around Back to the Future Day, celebrating the date that Michael J Fox and Christopher Lee travelled forward to in the second installment of the skateboarding and gilet saga. Hewden has got in on the fun by predicting what the construction industry will look like in another 30 years’ time: plenty of spectacular superstructures but, sadly, not a hoverboard in site.

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