January 6, 1950 – United Kingdom recognises People’s Republic of China. Republic of China severs diplomatic relations with the UK in response

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Chinese-United Kingdom relations, 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 the Hong Kong national security law that was passed by China on 30 June 2020.

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.

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, Britain—after discussions with other Commonwealth members and European countries—formally recognised the People’s Republic of China on January 6, 1950. The PRC refused to allow exchange of ambassadors.

On March, 1972 the PRC accorded full recognition to the UK government, permitting the exchange of ambassadors. The UK acknowledged the PRC’s position on Taiwan without accepting it.

In 198, during negotiations with Margaret Thatcher about the return of Hong Kong, Deng Xiaoping told her that China could simply invade Hong Kong. It was revealed later (2007) that such plans indeed existed.

On June 30 – July 1 1997, the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China occurred.

On October 12, 2020, the UK began to consider sanctions on China over the breach of the Hong Kong agreement because China began implementing the National Security Law.

Tony Simon

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