Home Editors' Pick A timeline of China-UK Ambassadorial Relations: The 1980s

A timeline of China-UK Ambassadorial Relations: The 1980s

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. Here’s how relations developed in the 1980s



  •  Preparations for Hong Kong’s return to China begin.
  • Ambassador Percy Cradock and his wife meet with senior guests, including the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Han Kehua to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday party.

  • British Airways, the UK’s flagship carrier, begins direct flights to Beijing. 


  • During his visit to Beijing, UK Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington meets with Deng Xiaoping.


  •  Lord Nelson, the President of the Sino-British Trade Council, meets with the Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in Beijing.

  •  Deng Xiaoping meets with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The meeting signals the beginning of Sino-British negotiations on the future of Hong Kong.


  • Chen Zhaoyuan becomes Chinese Ambassador to the UK.
  • In a letter to Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, Prime Minister Thatcher states that the British government recognises China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong and accepts that it will have no further authority after 1997. 


  •  The draft agreement of the Sino-British Joint Declaration is signed in Beijing by Zhou Nan, chairman of the Chinese negotiating team, and Sir Richard Evans for the UK. The agreement sets the conditions under which Hong Kong will revert to Chinese rule and officially become a Chinese territory. 

  • Sir Richard Evans becomes British Ambassador to China.
  • China and Britain reach an agreement on the handover of Hong Kong. Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sign the Sino-British Joint Declaration. 


  • Hu Dingyi becomes Chinese Ambassador to Britain.
  • The Third Session of the Sixth National People’s Congress is held in Beijing, ratifying the Sino-British Joint Declaration. 
  • The reconstruction of the Chinese Embassy is completed. 


  •  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh pay a state visit to China, the first such visit by a British sovereign. The queen meets with Deng Xiaoping. 

  • ‘Sea Day’ aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia, part of the Sino British Trade and Economic Cooperation Seminar during the queen’s visit to China.
  • Margaret Thatcher and General Secretary Hu Yaobang witness the establishment of the Sino-British Friendship Scholarship scheme


  • Ji Chaozhu becomes Chinese Ambassador to the UK. 
  • The British Embassy reports that China and Britain have signed an agreement settling all outstanding historical property claims, which opens the way for China to issue bonds on the London capital market. 


  • Sir Alan Donald becomes British Ambassador to China.
  • A mutual agreement is reached on arrangements for concessional lending between China and the UK.


  • The landmark China/Avant-Garde Exhibition of Chinese contemporary art is held at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC). The exhibition showcased the newly emerging experimental art practices that appeared in Mainland China between 1985-1988.

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