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
¡ê300 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