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Forum marks six decades of Sino-UK ties

Updated: 2013-07-08 07:18
By Zhang Chunyan in London ( China Daily)

The British 48 Group Club, which 60 years ago broke a trade embargo Western economies had imposed on China, is scheduled to visit Beijing and take part in a forum in this week.

In 1953, a group of British businessmen embarked on a journey from London to Beijing, to break the trade embargo that slowed China's recovery from previous conflicts.

The trip to China was tough. It took the team seven days to fly to Hong Kong, at a time when people in Washington "were trying hard to stop people going to China" and the Cold War was threatening world peace. The team then overcame all kinds of obstacles over three days to finally reach Beijing.

The group - led by John Boyd Orr, the first director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization - included Jack Perry, a British businessman who organized the mission, and Professor Joan Robinson, a distinguished Cambridge economist.

The 10-day journey was remembered as the historic Icebreaker Mission. The group pioneered mutually beneficial relations, signing trade agreements with China.

These businessmen from British companies later formed The 48 Group Club, also called The Icebreakers, a British independent business network committed to promoting relations with China.

The trailblazing initiative has since become a tradition in China-UK history.

Historic mission

This week, the 48 Group Club will again return to China. A forum to mark the anniversary of the historic Icebreaker Mission and to further promote Sino-UK relations will begin in Beijing on Thursday.

"This is a part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the historic Icebreaker Mission, which led to the group's formation," Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club and son of Jack Perry, said at a news conference in London.

The forum aims to build on the legacy of the group in "breaking the ice" between British and Chinese businesses, policymakers and individuals from the new generation who will lead the bilateral relationship in the 21st century.

The forum will be held at the Beijing Hotel, where participants will hear from experts on China's relationship with the changing world.

One of the experts, Jim O'Neill, former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said, "A lot has changed since the original 48 Group Club 'Icebreakers' made their journey to Beijing 60 years ago. What was a 10-day journey in 1953 is in 2013 a 10-hour non-stop flight."

"Business relationships between our two countries continue to improve and prosper, and the role of the 48 Group in nurturing them should not be underestimated. I am delighted to be a part of the 60th anniversary celebrations," he added.

O'Neill is known for his creation of the acronym BRIC in 2001 to refer to the four fast-growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The name was changed to BRICS after South Africa, another booming economy, was included.

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