China–United Kingdom relations

Chinese-United Kingdom relations (simplified Chinese: 中英关系; traditional Chinese: 中英關係; pinyin: Zhōng-Yīng guānxì), more commonly known as British–Chinese relations, Anglo-Chinese relations and Sino-British relations, refers to the interstate relations between China (with its various governments through history) and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and China were on opposing sides of the Cold War. Both countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In recent months, the relations between the two countries have been controversial and hostile due to a Hong Kong national security law that was passed by China in June 30, 2020.

China–United Kingdom relations


United Kingdom
Diplomatic mission
Embassy of China, LondonEmbassy of the United Kingdom, Beijing
Ambassador Liu XiaomingAmbassador Barbara Woodward


Michael Shen Fu-Tsung resided in Britain from 1685 to 1688. "The Chinese Convert" by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1687.
British bombardment of Canton from the surrounding heights during the First Opium War, May 1841
Signing of the Treaty of Nanking (1842).


Rabban Bar Sauma from China visited France and met with King Edward I of England in Gascony.

Between England and the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)

  • English ships sailed to Macau in the 1620s, which was leased by China to Portugal. The Unicorn, an English merchant ship, sank near Macau and the Portuguese dredged up sakers (cannon) from the ships and sold those to China around 1620, where they were reproduced as Hongyipao.
  • 27 June 1637: Four heavily armed ships under Captain John Weddell, arrived at Macao in an attempt to open trade between England and China. They were not backed by the East India Company, but rather by a private group led by Sir William Courteen, including King Charles I's personal interest of £10,000. They were opposed by the Portuguese authorities in Macao (as their agreements with China required) and quickly infuriated the Ming authorities. Later, in the summer, they easily captured one of the Bogue forts, and spend several weeks engaged in low-level fighting and smuggling. After being forced to seek Portuguese help in the release of three hostages, they left the Pearl River on 27 December. It is unclear whether they returned home.[1][2][3]

Great Britain and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)

Skilled diplomat, Li Hongzhang acted as a negotiator between the West and the late Qing Dynasty. Queen Victoria made him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.

Britain and the Republic of China (1912–1949)

British diplomats rescued Sun Yat-sen from their Qing counterparts in 1896. Sun later founded the Republic of China.
Chiang-Kai-Shek and Winston Churchill heads, with Nationalist China flag and Union Jack.
  • 1916 - The Chinese Labour Corps recruits Chinese labourers to aid the British during World War I.
  • 14 August 1917 - China joins Britain as part of the Allies of World War I.
  • 4 May 1919 - The anti-imperialist May Fourth Movement begins in response to the Beiyang government's failure to secure a share of the victory spoils from the leading Allied Powers, after Britain sides with its treaty ally Japan on the Shandong Problem. From this point the ROC leadership moves away from Western models and towards the Soviet Union.
  • November 1921-February 1922. At the Washington naval disarmament conference rivalries persisted over China. The United States, Japan and Britain supported different warlords. The US and Britain were hostile to the nationalists revolutionary government in Guangzhou (Canton) and supported Chen Jiongming's rebellion. Chinese reactions led to the Northern Expedition (1926–27).[15]
  • 30 May 1925 - Shanghai Municipal Police officers under British leadership kill nine people while trying to defend a police station from Chinese protesters, provoking the anti-British campaign known as the May 30 Movement.
  • 19 February 1927 - Following riots on the streets of Hankow (Wuhan) the Chen-O'Malley Agreement is entered into providing for the hand over of the British Concession area to the Chinese authorities.
  • 1930 - Weihai Harbour returned to China.
  • 17 May 1935 - Following decades of Chinese complaints about the low rank of Western diplomats, the British Legation in Beijing is upgraded to an Embassy.[16]
  • 1936-37 - British Embassy moves to Nanjing (Nanking), following the earlier transfer there of the Chinese capital.
A sign displayed in Japanese-occupied Beijing in May 1940
  • 1937-41 - British public and official opinion favours China in its war against Japan, but Britain focuses on defending Singapore and the Empire and can give little help. It does provide training in India for Chinese infantry divisions, and air bases in India used by the Americans to fly supplies and warplanes to China.[17]
  • 1941-45 - Chinese and British fight side by side against Japan in World War II. The British train Chinese troops in India and use them in the Burma campaign.
  • 6 January 1950 - His Majesty's Government (HMG) removes recognition from the Republic of China. The Nanjing Embassy is then wound down. The Tamsui Consulate is kept open under the guise of liaison with the Taiwan Provincial Government.
  • 13 March 1972 - The Tamsui Consulate is closed.[18]
  • February 1976 - The Anglo Taiwan Trade Committee is formed to promote trade between Britain and Taiwan.[19]
  • 30 June 1980 - Fort San Domingo is seized by the Republic of China authorities in lieu of unpaid rent.[18]
  • 1989 - The Anglo Taiwan Trade Committee begins issuing British visas in Taipei.
  • 1993 - British Trade and Cultural Office opened in Taipei.[20]

Between the UK and the People's Republic of China (1949–present)

The British Embassy in Beijing
Chinese Embassy in London
British and Chinese Flags together.
Union Flag flies from the PLAN ship Changbai Shan during a visit to Portsmouth in 2015

The United Kingdom and the anti-Communist Nationalist Chinese government were allies during World War II. Britain sought stability in China after the war to protect its more than £300 million in investments, much more than from the United States. It agreed in the Moscow Agreement of 1945 to not interfere in Chinese affairs but sympathised with the Nationalists, who until 1947 were winning the Chinese Civil War against the Communist Party of China.[21]

By August 1948, however, the Communists' victories caused the British government to begin preparing for a Communist takeover of the country. It kept open consulates in Communist-controlled areas and rejected the Nationalists' requests that British citizens assist in the defence of Shanghai. By December, the government concluded that although British property in China would likely be nationalised, British traders would benefit in the long run from a stable, industrialising Communist China. Retaining Hong Kong was especially important; although the Communists promised to not interfere with its rule, Britain reinforced the Hong Kong Garrison during 1949. When the victorious Communist government declared on 1 October 1949 that it would exchange diplomats with any country that ended relations with the Nationalists, Britainafter discussions with other Commonwealth members and European countriesformally recognised the People's Republic of China in January 1950.[21]


Common memberships


Air Transport

All three major Chinese airlines, Air China, China Eastern & China Southern fly between the UK and China, principally between London-Heathrow and the three major air hubs of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. China Southern also flies between Heathrow and Wuhan. Among China's other airlines; Hainan Airlines flies between Manchester and Beijing, Beijing Capital Airlines offers Heathrow to Qingdao, while Tianjin Airlines offers flights between Tianjin, Chongqing and Xi'an to London-Gatwick. Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific also flies between Hong Kong to Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. The British flag carrier British Airways flies to just three destinations in China; Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and in the past Chengdu. Rival Virgin Atlantic flies between Heathrow to Shanghai and Hong Kong. British Airways has mentioned that it is interested in leasing China's new Comac C919 in its pool of aircraft of Boeing and Airbus.[62]

Rail Transport

In January 2017, China Railways and DB Cargo launched the Yiwu-London Railway Line connecting the city of Yiwu and the London borough of Barking, and creating the longest railway freight line in the world. Hong Kong's MTR runs the London's TfL Rail service and has a 30% stake in South Western Railway. In 2017, train manufacturer CRRC won a contract to build 71 engineering wagons for London Underground. This is the first time a Chinese manufacturer has won a railway contract.[63]

Culture & Media

Both countries are major cultural powerhouses.[citation needed] Although the UK is more established in this regard than China, the latter is an emerging cultural superpower.[citation needed] Much of the lack of cultural links between the two nations is due to differences in language and local restrictions.[citation needed] A strong exception exists for Hong Kong due to the region's former links with the UK as a crown colony.


The weekly-published Europe edition of China Daily is available in a few newsagents in the UK, and on occasions a condensed version called China Watch is published in the Daily Telegraph.[64] The monthly NewsChina,[65] the North American English-language edition of China Newsweek (中国新闻周刊) is available in a few branches of WHSmith. Due to local censorship, British newspapers and magazines are not widely available in Mainland China, however the Economist and Financial Times are available in Hong Kong.

British "China Hands" like Carrie Gracie, Isabel Hilton and Martin Jacques occasionally write opinion pieces in many British newspapers and political magazines about China, often to try and explain about Middle Kingdom.

Radio and Television

Like the press, China has a limited scope in the broadcasting arena. In radio, the international broadcaster China Radio International broadcasts in English over shortwave which isn't widely taken up and also on the internet. The BBC World Service is available in China by shortwave as well, although it is often jammed (See Radio jamming in China). In Hong Kong, the BBC World Service is relayed for eight hours overnight on RTHK Radio 4 which on a domestic FM broadcast.

On television, China broadcasts both its two main English-language news channels CGTN and CNC World. CGTN is available as a streaming channel on Freeview, while both are available on Sky satellite TV and IPTV channels. Mandarin-speaking Phoenix CNE TV is also available of Sky satellite TV. Other TV channels including CCTV-4, CCTV-13, CGTN Documentary,& TVB Europe are available as IPTV channels using set-top boxes.

British television isn't available in China at all, as foreign televisions channels and networks are not allowed to be broadcast in China. On the other hand, there is an interest in British television shows such as Sherlock and British television formats like Britain's Got Talent (China's Got Talent, 中国达人秀) & Pop Idol (Super Girl, 超级女声).

British in China


  • Sir Robert Hart was an Scots-Irish statesman who served the Chinese Imperial Government as Inspector General of Maritime Customs from 1863 to 1907.
  • George Ernest Morrison resident correspondent of The Times, London, at Peking in 1897, and political adviser to the President of China from 1912 to 1920.






Chinese statesmen

Diplomatic missions

The Chinese consulate in Belfast, by 2020, began building a wall despite a court injunction.[67]

See also


  1. Mundy, William Walter (1875). Canton and the Bogue: The Narrative of an Eventful Six Months in China. London: Samuel Tinsley. pp. 51.. The full text of this book is available.
  2. Dodge, Ernest Stanley (1976). Islands and Empires: Western impact on the Pacific and East Asia (vol.VII). University of Minnesota Press. pp. 261–262. ISBN 978-0-8166-0788-4. Dodge says the fleet was dispersed off Sumatra, and Wendell was lost with all hands.
  3. J.H.Clapham (1927). "Review of The Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China, 1635-1834 by Hosea Ballou Morse". The English Historical Review. Oxford University Press. 42 (166): 289–292. doi:10.1093/ehr/XLII.CLXVI.289. JSTOR 551695. Clapham summarizes Morse as saying that Wendell returned home with a few goods.
  4. BBC
  5. "Shameen: A Colonial Heritage" Archived 2008-12-29 at the Wayback Machine, By Dr Howard M. Scott
  6. China in Maps - A Library Special Collection Archived 2008-12-17 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Koon, Yeewan (2012). "The Face of Diplomacy in 19th-Century China: Qiying's Portrait Gifts". In Johnson, Kendall (ed.). Narratives of Free Trade: The Commercial Cultures of Early US-China Relations. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 131–148.
  8. Alfred Stead (1901). China and her mysteries. London: Hood, Douglas, & Howard. p. 100.
  9. Rockhill, William Woodville (1905). China's intercourse with Korea from the XVth century to 1895. London: Luzac & Co. p. 5.
  10. "Convention Between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim & Tibet". Tibet Justice Center.
  11. Alicia E. Neva Little (10 June 2010). Intimate China: The Chinese as I Have Seen Them. Cambridge University Press. pp. 210–. ISBN 978-1-108-01427-4.
  12. Mrs. Archibald Little (1899). Intimate China: The Chinese as I Have Seen Them. Hutchinson & Company. pp. 210–.
  15. Erik Goldstein, and John Maurer, The Washington Conference, 1921-22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor (2012).
  16. "Britain Recognizes Chinese Communists: Note delivered in Peking". The Times. London. 7 January 1950. p. 6. ISSN 0140-0460.
  17. J. K. Perry, "Powerless and Frustrated: Britain's Relationship With China During the Opening Years of the Second Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1939," Diplomacy and Statecraft, (Sept 2011) 22#3 pp 408-430,
  18. File documents from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, passim. , released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request at
  20. Minutes of Evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs
  21. Wolf, David C. (1983). "'To Secure a Convenience': Britain Recognizes China - 1950". Journal of Contemporary History. 18 (2): 299–326. doi:10.1177/002200948301800207. JSTOR 260389.
  22. Malcolm Murfett, Hostage on the Yangtze: Britain, China, and the Amethyst crisis of 1949 (Naval Institute Press, 2014)
  23. "British Envoy for Peking". The Times. London. 2 February 1950. p. 4. ISSN 0140-0460.
  24. Mishra, Pankaj (December 20, 2010). "Staying Power: Mao and the Maoists". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
  25. "Letter from Mao Zedong to Clement Attlee sells for £605,000". The Guardian. 2015-12-15. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
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  27. David C. Wolf, "'To Secure a Convenience': Britain Recognizes China-1950." Journal of Contemporary History (1983): 299-326.
  28. Harold Munthe-Kaas; Pat Healy (23 August 1967). "Britain's Tough Diplomatist in Peking". The Times. London. p. 6. ISSN 0140-0460.
  29. "Revealed: the Hong Kong invasion plan", Michael Sheridan, Sunday Times, June 24, 2007
  30. "Red Guard Attack as Ultimatum Expires". The Times. London. 23 August 1967. p. 1. ISSN 0140-0460.
  31. Peter Hopkirk (30 August 1967). "Dustbin Lids Used as Shields". The Times. London. p. 1. ISSN 0140-0460.
  32. "Backgrounder: China and the United Kingdom". Xinhua. 2003. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2008-12-10. "Ambassador to China after 22-year interval". The Times. London. 14 March 1972. p. 1. ISSN 0140-0460.
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  35. Shaun Breslin, "Beyond diplomacy? UK relations with China since 1997." British Journal of Politics & International Relations 6#3 (2004): 409-425.
  36. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Written Ministerial Statement on Tibet Archived December 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine 29 October 2008. Retrieved on 10 December 2008.
  37. Kerry Brown, What's Wrong With Diplomacy?: The Future of Diplomacy and the Case of China and the UK (Penguin, 2015) ch 1.
  39. Zheng, Yongnian et al , "China's Foreign Policy: Coping with Shifting Geopolitics and Maintaining Stable External Relations." East Asian Policy 4#1 (2012) pp: 29-42.
  40. Ross, John (2013). "The New Realities of China-UK Relations". China Today. 12: 15.
  41. "Cameron hails China links at talks with Li Keqiang". BBC News. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  42. "Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets the Queen on UK visit". BBC News. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  43. "China-led AIIB development bank holds signing ceremony". BBC News. 2015-06-29. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  45. Elgot, Jessica (20 October 2015). "Xi Jinping visit: Queen and Chinese president head to Buckingham Palace - live". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  46. Fitzgerald, Todd (20 October 2015). "Five places that Chinese President Xi Jinping should visit during his trip to Manchester with David Cameron". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  47. "What Boris Johnson has said about other countries". 2019-07-24.
  48. "China-Europe Relations - Headlines, Politics, Business, Culture - China Daily - World -". Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  49. "China-UK Relations: Forty-Five Years on & the Golden Era_人大重阳网|中国人民大学重阳金融研究院". Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  50. Xiaoming, Liu (2018). "The UK-China 'Golden Era' can bear new fruit". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-02-01.
  51. "Which Countries Are For or Against China's Xinjiang Policies?". The Diplomat. 15 July 2019.
  52. "More than 20 ambassadors condemn China's treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang". The Guardian. 11 July 2019.
  53. Lawler, Dave (2 July 2020). "The 53 countries supporting China's crackdown on Hong Kong". Axios. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  54. "Hong Kong: UK says new security law is 'deeply troubling'". BBC News. 30 June 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  55. "Boris Confirms Citizenship Path for 3 Million BNOs in Hong Kong". Guido Fawkes. 1 July 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  56. "Boris Confirms Citizenship Path for 3 Million BNOs in Hong Kong". Guido Fawkes. 1 July 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
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  58. "U.K. suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid public outrage over human rights in China". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  59. The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have membership of this organisation in their own right, as well as mainland People's Republic of China.
  60. The special administrative region of Hong Kong have membership of this organisation in its own right, as well as mainland People's Republic of China.
  61. The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have associated or sub-bureau membership of this organisation in their own right, as well as mainland People's Republic of China.
  62. 大汉网络. "Air Asia, British Airways considering C919". Archived from the original on 2018-01-01. Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  63. Templeton, Dan. "CRRC wins first British contract". International Rail Journal. Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  64. "China Watch". The Telegraph. 2016-08-17. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  65. "NewsChina Magazine". Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  66. Kit-ching Chan Lau (1 December 1978). Anglo-Chinese Diplomacy 1906-1920: In the Careers of Sir John Jordan and Yuan Shih-kai. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 168–. ISBN 978-962-209-010-1.
  67. McDonald, Henry (2020-06-24). "China defies court order over building of wall at Belfast consulate". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-06-24.


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