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1979: Chairman Hua arrives in London

The first Chinese leader to visit Britain, Chairman Hua Kuo-Feng, has arrived in London at the start of a six-day visit.

He was welcomed at Heathrow airport by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who paid tribute to China as a "great and historical nation which has a crucial role to play in world affairs".

She said the two countries enjoyed a "close understanding in many fields" and she hoped their talks would further improve relations.

In his reply, Chairman Hua stressed "the important role Western Europe has to play in defending world peace".

Guard of honour

He said this was why China had given "high priority to the development of good relations with the West European countries".

Chairman Hua was given the kind of treatment usually reserved only for royalty and presidents.

The Coldstream Guards formed a guard of honour before he was taken to the luxury Claridges hotel, where he and his party will be staying.

Chairman Hua has an invitation to lunch at Buckingham Palace where the Queen will personally take him on a tour of the state rooms.

This is the Chinese leader's first visit to the non-Communist world, apart from a short stay in Iran before Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi was forced into exile.

During his visit, he is expected to discuss trade, various bilateral issues, including the future of Hong Kong, and world peace.

It is hoped he and Mrs Thatcher will sign a number of deals, including an air services agreement giving Chinese airlines the rights to fly to Britain.

Trade issues are expected to focus on the process of modernisation in China - in particular improvements to its armed forces, transport infrastructure and industry.

The Chinese delegation will pay a visit to Rolls Royce in Derby, BP and British Rail's technical centre.

Chairman Hua, who spent 20 years of his life in the Chinese agricultural sector, will also be shown a farm in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and fit in a quick visit to Oxford University, before flying on to Rome on Saturday.

He has already spent a week each in France and West Germany.

In Context
In an interview before his visit to Western Europe, Chairman Hua was quoted as saying he wanted to see for himself the reality of advanced economic, scientific and technological experience to see how they could benefit China's modernisation programme.

The trip paved the way to improved relations between Britain and China.

Official negotiations on the future of Hong Kong began in 1982 and were completed with the handover on 1 July 1997.

The Queen became the first British monarch to visit China in 1986.

However, the brutal suppression of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 led to a breakdown in China's relations with the West.

China has since become of the world's leading growth economies, prompting greater trading links with the West. But in 2005 the EU and US were still enforcing an embargo on arms sales to China imposed after Tiananmen Square.

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