Home Editors' Pick A timeline of China-UK Ambassadorial Relations: The 1970s

A timeline of China-UK Ambassadorial Relations: The 1970s

by CBBC Staff
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This year marks the 50th anniversary of ambassadorial relations between China and the UK. In this article series, we take a look at some of the key events that have taken place between 1972 and 2022, starting with the 1970s


  •  The UK and China agree to establish full diplomatic ties with the exchange of Ambassadors, signalling their commitment to a strong and constructive bilateral relationship.  Sir John Addis is made the first British Ambassador to China in modern times. Ambassador Song Zhiguang becomes China’s Ambassador to the UK. 
  •  Margaret Thatcher, then-Secretary of State for Education & Science, meets with Professor Wang-Techao, the leader of the Chinese Oceanology delegation to open the Oceanology International exhibition at Brighton.


  • The Chinese Embassy makes a request to the British authorities for approval of a reconstruction project for the Chinese Embassy building in London
  • The British Industrial Exhibition opened in Beijing that March


  • Sir Edward Youde becomes British Ambassador to China.
  • Former British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, visits China and meets with Chairman Mao Zedong.

  • The Great Britain-China Centre (GBCC) is established in London by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (now the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) to support UK-China relations. UK Prime Minister James Callaghan attends the opening.


  • The Great Britain-China Educational Trust (GBCET), a registered charity administered by the Great Britain-China Centre, is set up.


  • Chairman Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, dies after years of ill health.


  • Mao Zedong’s chosen successor, Hua Guofeng, takes Mao’s place as leader. At the same time, Deng Xiaoping rises quickly to power.

  • Thomson Holidays, a British travel agency, launches package holidays to China.


  • Sir Percy Craddock becomes British Ambassador to China.

  • Ke Hua becomes Chinese Ambassador to the UK.
  • Deng Xiaoping launches a series of transformative economic reforms to open China up to the international community and to foreign investment.


  •  Deng Xiaoping meets with Murray MacLehose, the Governor of Hong Kong, in Beijing. The issue of Hong Kong is raised and Deng says China will reassert sovereignty over the “special region” after 30 June 1997.
  • The first agreement on educational and cultural cooperation between the Chinese and British Governments is signed

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