The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland recognised the People's Republic of China in 1950. The two sides reached an agreement to exchange charges d'affaires on 17 June 1954 and signed the Joint Communique on the Agreement on an Exchange of Ambassadors on 13 March 1972. The Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong signed by the two governments on 19 December 1984 ushered in a period of sound development in Sino-British relations, as evidenced by important two-way visits and many agreements signed for cooperation in various fields. The Hong Kong handover ceremony was held on 30 June 1997 and China has resumed the exercise of sovereignty over the territory ever since.
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed successive visits to the UK by Chinese Premiers and the General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee as well as visits to China by Her Majest Queen Elizabeth II and two British Prime Ministers. Main visits paid by the Chinese leaders to the UK in the 1990s include those by Vice Premier Li Lanqing in November 1996, Premier Zhu Rongji in April 1998, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Jiang Chunyun in June 1998 and President Jiang Zeming in October 1999.
Main visits paid by British leaders to China over the same period include those by Prime Minister John Major in September 1991, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions John Prescott in July 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair in October 1998, Lord Chancellor the Lord Irvine of Lairg in September 1999 and Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd in September 1999