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History of Sino-British Relations
Relations Improve, 1972-1989

In June 1970, negotiations began and led to an agreement on the exchange of ambassadors from 13 March 1972. Soon afterwards, Sir Alec Douglas-Home became the first Foreign Secretary to visit China.

China was now more open, and Britain responded. In 1979, the Duke of Kent was the first official Royal visitor to China. In 1982, Prime Minister Thatcher visited China and began negotiations on the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. She returned in 1984 to sign the Hong Kong Joint Agreement. In 1986, Her Majesty the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh made a highly successful State Visit to China. Visitors from China included both the Communist Party Secretary General, Hu Yaobang, and Premier Zhao Ziyang.

As China opened up in ways unprecedented since 1949, there were contacts at all levels, with frequent ministerial visits. There was a high degree of co-operation on the Hong Kong Joint Declaration. China became a tourist destination for increasing numbers of Britons. Chinese students flocked to British universities, with a smaller but equally enthusiastic flow the other way. Organisations such as Save the Children and Voluntary Service Overseas began operating in China. British companies pursued the growing trade and investment opportunities and British manufacturers returned; trade was now counted in billions of pounds, rather than millions. British and Chinese airlines established direct services between the two countries. Soft loan agreements, each worth ��300 million, were signed in 1986 and 1988. Despite the distances, from 1983 onwards British and Chinese towns set up twinning links. In 1985, Britain opened a consulate general in Shanghai, to be followed later by Guangzhou and, from 2000, Chongqing. The Chinese too opened consular posts in Britain.

- History of Sino-British relations, 1989-2000


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