The opening ceremony of the Great Britain China Centre.

The Great Britain–China Centre promotes good relations between the two nations, focusing on legal, judicial, and labor reform.

The Great Britain–China Centre was founded on 16 July 1974 by British Foreign Secretary James Callaghan under the auspices of the British Council and with the help of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The center was created to provide greater nongovernmental contact between Britain and China and to promote cultural exchanges for the development of good relations between the two nations. Although in its early years the center’s mission was primarily cultural education, in recent years the mission has shifted to legal, judicial, and labor reform.

China and the outside world had little contact during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), but the West remained curious about China. Programs such as the Royal Academy’s “The Genius of China” exhibition in 1974, although important and well intentioned, fell short of satisfying British public interest in China and Chinese culture. The Great Britain–China Centre and the Great Britain–China Educational Trust, a fund that supports students studying Chinese language and culture, were established to help satisfy this general interest in China.

During its first decade the center hosted arts conservation programs, briefings for business people, cultural exchanges and visits by news delegations, sinologists, librarians, geographers, agricultural, and medical delegations, and business groups both to and from China. During its early years the center faced challenges because of Chinese objection to visits by certain cultural groups, including the Manchester United football club and the violinist and composer Yehudi Menuhin.

By 1984 China had undergone significant change and, with agreement on the question of Hong Kong settled by the 1984 Joint Declaration (which called for the return of Hong Kong to China no later than 30 June 1997), contact and activities flourished between the two nations. The center became a reference point for people engaging with China. It developed a newsletter, lecture programs, and a “Directory of British Organizations with an Interest in China” and provided Chinese-language classes.

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 changed the perspective of many people and put human rights at the forefront of relations with China. After the visit to China of a British human rights delegation in 1992, led by Lord Howe, the British foreign secretary during the Tiananmen Square incident, the center began to focus on legal reform. As the pace and variety of Sino-British links grew during the 1990s, the center continued to focus on legal and economic reform and to broaden its scope to include programs dealing with the environment, arts and humanities, public administration, and the media.

Since the 1990s the center’s mission has shifted slightly to the promotion of understanding between Britain and China in the areas of legal, judicial, and labor reform. The center operates exchange and research projects with Chinese partners and works with many organizations in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and China, including the Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Global Opportunities Fund, the All-Party Parliamentary China Group, the European Union Delegation in Beijing, the British Council, and the Ford Foundation. Projects include research seminars on the use of the death penalty in China, collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security on the establishment of labor arbitration courts to settle workers’ disputes, and forums on legal reform and human rights. The center works with government ministries, universities, businesses, law firms, and research centers to conduct short-term and long-term exchanges, and it continues to develop contacts within both countries. The core of its efforts remains aimed at building the relationship between China and the United Kingdom.

Further Reading

Great Britain China Centre. (2008). Retrieved September 9, 2008, from

Leonard, M. (Winter 2008). The creation of a Chinese model. China Review, (45). Retrieved December 18, 2008, from

Source: The Editors. (2009). Great Britain–China Centre. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 924–925. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Great Britain–China Centre (Y?ng-Zh?ng Xiéhuì ????)|Y?ng-Zh?ng Xiéhuì ???? (Great Britain–China Centre)

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