The smooth transfer of government in Hong Kongbetween Chinaand the United Kingdomin July 1997 opens a new chapter in the annals of China Britain relations. In Prime Minister Blair's visit to Chinain October 1998, the two countries issued a joint statement, officially announcing the establishment of a comprehensive China/UK partnership. The two sides emphasized that Chinaand the United Kingdom, both as influential countries in the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council, share extensive common interests and responsibilities in international affairs. They believed that to develop a comprehensive partnership between the two countries serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples and would be conducive to world stability and development at the time when humanity faces many challenges in its course to peace and development in the 21stcentury. And the two countries should take the opportunity of the transfer of government in Hong Kongto further expand their exchanges and cooperation in all fields. They agreed to enhance their political and military consultations, continue the human rights dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and expand their trade and economic cooperation, especially cooperation in the reform of the financial system, the transformation of the state-owned enterprises, social security, environmental protection and poverty alleviation. The United Kingdomexpressed its support for China's entry into the WTO at an early date. To increase the mutual understanding between the Chinese and British peoples and promote the exchanges between the two countries in the parliamentarian, academic, educational, cultural, sports and other fields, they decided to set up the China-UK Forum, the highest non-governmental dialogue mechanism between the two countries. The two sides also reiterated their determination to enhance consultation and cooperation on regional and international issues in the bilateral or multilateral arenas so as to contribute to world peace and security.
The Joint Statement has defined a basis framework for the trans-century development of the relations between Chinaand the UK. By virtue of the efforts by both sides, the past three years have witnessed a good momentum for the development of the comprehensive China/UK partnership.
Politically, the two countries have seen frequent exchanges of high-level visits and enhanced political consultation and dialogues at various levels. In October 1999, President Jiang Zemin paid a state visit to the United Kingdomat the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen, the first visit of its kind to UKmade by a head of state of China. In the course of the visit, leaders of the two countries had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations as well as major regional and international issues, and reached broad consensus. President Jiang put forward three principles for the development of Sino-British relations, which are to always proceed from the overall interests of the bilateral relations, to deal with economic cooperation and trade on the basis of mutual benefit and complementarity, and to increase exchanges in all areas. The visit was a complete success, having a far-reaching positive impact on the development of the comprehensive China/UK partnership. In addition, there were other major visits include those by Li Ruihuan, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Hu Jintao, Vice President, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Qian Qichen, Vice Premiers of China, Chi Haotian, State Councilor and Minister of Defense, Ding Guangen, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Li Tieying, Member of the Political Bureau and Head of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tang Jiaxuan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chen Zhili, Minister of Education, Shi Guangsheng, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, and other Chinese senior officials conducted respectively. On the British part, Deputy Prime Minister Prescott, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State for Culture, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Secretary of State for Defense, Secretary of State for International Development, Speakers of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons and Chief of the Defense Staff visited Chinasuccessively. Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Li Peng met with Speaker of the House of Commons of UK Betty Boothroyd in August 2000 in New Yorkat the Millennium Conference of National Parliaments, and Premier Zhu Rongji had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Blair at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa. In February and March, 2003, Tang Jiaxuan, Minister of Foreign Affairs twice met with Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdomwhen the UN Security Meetings on Iraqwere in session.
The dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in human rights, judicial matters, arms control, anti-terrorism, the UN issue and other areas have continued to develop. The two sides maintained close contacts and consultations on regional and international affairs at different levels.
Meanwhile, their exchanges and cooperation have continued expansion in other fields. The China/UK Forum has had three sessions so far. The trade and economic cooperation between the two countries has witnessed steady growth, thus UKis the second largest trading partner of Chinain the European Union. The bilateral trade volume was $ 11.4 billion in 2002, 10.6% higher than that of the previous year. The trade volume between January and March 2003 accounted for $2.71 billion, an increase of 17.9% over that of the corresponding period of the previous year. By the end of 2002, UKhad invested in 3406 projects in China, with $10.7 billions actually put in use, remaining the largest investor among European Union members in China.
At present, Chinaand the UKare working hard to expand and deepen their bilateral cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in an effort to continuously advance their comprehensive partnership in the new century.