The UK’s decision to exclude Huawei from its 5G networks has “seriously damaged” trust between Britain and China, ambassador Liu Xiaoming has said.

Answering questions following an online speech to the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, Mr Liu suggested the decision may have brought an end to the so-called “Golden Era” of commercial relations between the UK and China, asking: “How could you do normal business when the other side treats you as a hostile country?”

Speaking a day after Boris Johnson‘s government announced a ban on UK telecoms operators buying products from the Chinese tech giant, and ordered existing kit to be ripped out of 5G networks by 2027, he said that the country’s businesses were now likely to find it difficult to invest in Britain.

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Mr Liu said that the Johnson administration had “succumbed… to China hawks and China-bashers” who regard China as a hostile country.

The Huawei decision “undermines the trust between the two countries”, he said.

“Mutual trust, mutual respect are really the basis for any relationship, not only between countries but between individuals,” said Mr Liu.

“When you see this company, a good company who have been here for 20 years and not only invested £2 billion in this country, created 28,000 jobs and pays taxes and contributes greatly to the telecoms industry in this country and to the local community, that you simply dump this company, you purge this company, it is very disheartening.”

He added: “ The way you treat Huawei will be followed very closely by other Chinese businesses. When mutual trust is undermined it will be difficult for our companies to invest.

“You don’t need the government to say anything. I think businesses can make their own conclusions.

“So, I think trust is seriously damaged on the country level, on the government level and among businesses.”

Asked whether the Huawei ban would bring an end to the “Golden Era” of Sino-British relations declared by former prime minister David Cameron when president Xi Jinping visited the UK in 2015, Mr Liu replied: “The Golden Era really needs the two sides make efforts.

“The Golden Era was proposed by the UK side. When president Xi Jinping was here, the prime minister proposed we should build a Golden Era. We embraced this idea, we endorsed it, we agreed it and we worked together to build this Golden Era.

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“This is the fifth year of the Golden Era and I thought we could celebrate the anniversary, but so many things have happened.”

Mr Liu said that the Huawei decision was “not about a private company”.

“The big picture is about China,” he said. “Huawei really symbolises how you look at China, how you treat China.

“In the debate, we listen to all this rhetoric. One of the reasons for the UK decision was that they had to succumb to pressure from China hawks and China bashers. They regard China as a hostile country or a potentially hostile country.”

Mr Liu said the UK had “politicised the economic relationship” with China by imposing sanctions on a Chinese company and treating the country as “a rival and a threat and a hostile country”.

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