Home News Jiang Zemin’s history of relations with the UK

Jiang Zemin’s history of relations with the UK

He met Queen Elizabeth in Shanghai in the 80s and oversaw unprecedented growth in China – but what else set Jiang Zemin's relations with the UK apart?

by Robynne Tindall
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Following the death of former president Jiang Zemin, we take a look at the leader’s relations with the UK; from meeting Queen Elizabeth II in Shanghai in 1986, to becoming the first serving Chinese leader to visit the UK in 1999

Former president Jiang Zemin passed away in Shanghai on 30 November 2022 at the age of 96. He was given a state funeral in Beijing on the morning of Tuesday, 6 December, marked by the sounding of air raid sirens in cities across the country and a three-minute silence in Hong Kong.

British Ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson DCMG, attended the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, 4 December to sign the official book of condolence on behalf of the UK, writing: “My sincere condolences on the death of former president Jiang Zemin this week. He welcomed our Late Queen Elizabeth II to Shanghai during her State Visit to China in 1986, and became the first serving Chinese leader to visit the UK in 1999. His passing is a great loss to the people of China.”

Like Queen Elizabeth II, Jiang was born in 1926, and was Party Secretary and Mayor of Shanghai when he met her in the city in 1986. Just a few years after the queen’s visit, he went on to become general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party from 1989 to 2002, then president of China from 1993 to 2003.

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Jiang’s tenure witnessed unprecedented economic growth in China and saw the country “enter the world”, culminating in it joining the World Trade Organisation in December 2001. He frequently engaged with foreign leaders both at home and abroad – often in a more spontaneous, personal manner than his predecessors or successors – including a four-day state visit to the UK in October 1999.

During the state visit, Jiang attended a CBBC-organised business lunch at the Banqueting House in Whitehall and met then CBBC President Sir Charles Powell.

CBBC President Sir Charles Powell with President Jiang Zemin in London, October 1999

Jiang’s visit to the UK came soon after the handover ceremony marking Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997, which Jiang attended alongside Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth, and then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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Images: Alamy, CBBC

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