The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC)

About CBBC

The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC): CBBC is the leading organisation helping UK companies grow and develop their business with China. We help companies of all sizes and sectors, whether new entrants or established operations. We offer practical in-market assistance, services, industry initiatives and a membership programme providing access, seminars and networking. Our advantage lies in our 23 local offices, Chinese language understanding, impartial advice, a network of 1000 members, unique government relations and key contacts in China and the UK. CBBC has worked with China for 60 years and our team has extensive China business experience.

History of CBBC

CBBC’s history dates back to the early 1950s when British companies were among the first to trade with communist China. Our forebears - the 48 Group of Companies and the Sino-British Trade Committee - developed relationships with China’s political leaders and maintained trade links through politically volatile times. This steadfast, pioneering spirit ensured that when China opened up to the outside world in the 1980s, they were best placed to help British businesses capitalise on opportunities in this new, unfamiliar market. Those two organisations merged in the 1990s and eventually became the China-Britain Business Council. As Britain’s economic relations with China take on increasing importance, so too does CBBC’s role in helping British companies in China.


• “Icebreaker Mission” of individuals representing 16 British companies sign a first business arrangement with communist China



• Icebreaker group grows to 48 companies, marking the formation of the 48 Group of Companies

• Creation of semi-official Sino-British Trade Committee (SBTC - later to become the Sino-British Trade Council)

• China sends a charge d’affaires to Britain for the first time, marking an improvement in relations after the end of the Korean War


• Sir John Keswick becomes SBTC president and during his ten years in charge visits China on numerous occasions, continuing to lead business delegations despite difficult political circumstances



• Full diplomatic relations between China and Britain are restored


• SBTC president Sir John Keswick (president from 1963-73) meets Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing

• SBTC organises the Britain Industrial Technology Exhibition in Beijing


• SBTC puts on the British Machine Tools and Scientific Instruments Exhibition in Shanghai



• At the instigation of the then UK Department of Trade and Industry, the 48 Group merges with the Sino-British Trade Council, forming the China-Britain Trade Group (CBTG), which would later become the China-Britain Business Council

• CBTG membership grows to 100 companies within six months


• CBTG and London Stock Exchange arrange for Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji to become the first Chinese leader to take part in a seminar with British business in the UK


• Trade Minister Michael Heseltine, with CBTG’s assistance, leads a large delegation of British businesses to China


• Heseltine, as deputy prime minister, returns to China accompanied by another CBTG-organised business delegation

• The CBTG China Launchpad service is born, allowing members to appoint representatives in China and rent space in CBTG’s China offices while using its services. To this day, Launchpad remains a popular CBBC service for members.



• China-UK relations warm further after the handover of Hong Kong


• CBTG changes its name to the China-Britain Business Council, reflecting the increasing diversity of the organisation's activities to promote trade, business and investment

• Lord Powell becomes president of CBBC and accompanies Prime Minister Tony Blair to China, where the two countries sign a Joint Declaration

• Premier Zhu Rongji attends a CBBC dinner in London’s Guildhall

• Tony Blair delivers a speech entitled “China and Britain: Grasping the Opportunity” at a CBBC conference in London


• President Jiang Zemin becomes the first Chinese head of state to visit the UK and attends a CBBC business lunch at the Banqueting House

• Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao also visits the UK



• Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao speaks at a CBBC business lunch in London


• China joins the WTO

• CBBC President Lord Powell meets then Vice President Hu Jintao in Beijing


• CBBC and UK Trade and Investment hammer out a groundbreaking service-level agreement that formally defines the relationship between CBBC and government



• CBBC celebrates its 50th anniversary


• President Hu Jintao makes a state visit to the UK and attends a meeting of CBBC representatives at Buckingham Palace


• Sir David Brewer appointed chairman of CBBC


• CBBC and the British Chamber of Commerce in China sign an agreement giving members reciprocal membership of both organizations

• Premier Wen Jiabao makes another visit


• Prime Minister David Cameron and Business Secretary Vince Cable travel to China, accompanied by a CBBC organised delegation of British businesses - the largest ever to China

• CBBC Chairman Sir David Brewer is appointed a British government Business Ambassador


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