Thatcher boosts ties with Peking

FWhere do former Conservative prime ministers go in the springtime? This year, despite the delicate nature of Sino-British relations, Peking is on the itinerary. Baroness Thatcher arrives today for a three-day visit, which will be followed in two weeks' time by Sir Edward Heath.

Lady Thatcher has a distinctive place in the minds of Chinese officials as the British prime minister who signed the 1984 Joint Declaration on the hand-over of Hong Kong in 1997. She is also remembered for stumbling down the front steps of the Great Hall of the People two years earlier, following an acrimonious meeting with Deng Xiaoping.

More recently, Lady Thatcher has lent her support to the political reforms of the Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten.

The Chinese, whose former leaders often carry more political clout than the new incumbents, are treating her visit cautiously. She is the guest of the People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, an unofficial body which looks after important non-governmental visitors.

Given the lack of high-level official bilateral visits since July 1993, Lady Thatcher's arrival is being welcomed as a sign of the resumption of normal relations between Britain and China.

Her trip, it is stressed, is private. But, meetings have been arranged with the Prime Minister, Li Peng, and with the chairman of the National People's Congress, Qiao Shi.

The question of Hong Kong and Sino-British relations can hardly be ignored. But Lady Thatcher, it is said, is not carrying any message from the British government. Her last visit to China was in 1991.

Relations between the two countries in recent months have been on what one observer described as a "slowly-rising curve", in spite of the stand- off over Hong Kong's future Court of Final Appeal. The arrival next month of Sir Edward is seen as part of the trend, although he is a regular visitor to China.

By far the most significant development is a planned visit by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, in mid-May. This will be the first top-level, government-to-government visit in 20 months, and it could pave the way for a visit to London in the latter half of the year by the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea