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Thatcher 'helped push ties with China'

中国日报网 2013-04-09 10:38

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Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady of British politics who died on Monday at 87, played a key role in China's relationship with the United Kingdom, especially in the peaceful handover of Hong Kong, experts said.

Britain's first and only female prime minister, Thatcher died peacefully at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her family announced. She governed Britain from 1979 to 1990.

"Margaret Thatcher played an important role in the development of UK-China relations. During the discussions over the handover of Hong Kong in the early 1980s, she came to recognize that it was important that the transition from British to Chinese rule should be smooth, and the diplomatic process was positive and productive as a result," said Rana Mitter, professor of Modern China at Oxford University.

"Although she was always determined to stand up for what she regarded as British national interests, she also understood the importance of pragmatism, and of good relations with China," Mitter said.

Tian Dewen, an expert on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Thatcher realized the importance of a rising China.

"Her visit to China and her decision to promote bilateral ties on economy and trade demonstrated to the Western world the necessity to communicate with China during the Cold War period, and Sino-UK relations have been on good terms since then," Tian said.

She was active in engaging with China and including it in the world system, which helped create a favorable international environment at a key period of China's reforms, he said.

Thatcher visited China four times, the first in 1977 as leader of the opposition.

During her subsequent visit in 1982, the first to China by a serving British prime minister, she met Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and discussed the future of Hong Kong.

Cheung Chi-kong, executive director of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute in Hong Kong, said Margaret Thatcher might have made a wrong judgment from day one - when she decided to negotiate with Beijing.

She had underestimated China's persistence in sovereignty and national dignity, Cheung said.

Beijing was determined to resume sovereignty over Hong Kong, Cheung said.

After two years of negotiations, China and Britain released the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, paving the way for Hong Kong's handover in 1997.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

About the broadcaster:

Emily Cheng is an editor at China Daily. She was born in Sydney, Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Media, English Literature and Politics. She has worked in the media industry since starting university and this is the third time she has settled abroad - she interned with a magazine in Hong Kong 2007 and studied at the University of Leeds in 2009.

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