Beijing 3: 1950 – 1972
Full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China were established in 1972, 22 years after Britain’s formal recognition of the new government, and the status of the mission became an embassy. In consequence, both the workload and the staff of the mission increased, including with a military attaché and staff and the British Council in the guise of the cultural section.
This expansion clearly required new buildings on the offices site. Among the first was an amenity hall in the north-east corner, strongly constructed in the wake of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. The eastern third of the site was gradually given over to staff social and sports amenities, with two tennis courts, swimming pool, squash court, library and embassy pub ‘The Bell’, its emblem brought from the Liang compound. A [?three storey] offices extension was completed in 1983 in the north-west corner.
The cultural section (British Council) offices were the first to move to new leased office space in the Landmark Tower, on the third ring road, in 1991. This move was followed by the visa/consular section, which moved to the nearby Kerry Centre in 1999.
The two Huang Gua Lu sites had been held since 1959 on annual leases. In the mid-1990s, the prospect opened up of being able to purchase long leases on these two sites, which would then provide a sound financial basis for re-building on them. Negotiations proceeded until called off by the British when it became apparent that the cost of meeting more urgent large new embassy building requirements elsewhere would for the time being leave insufficient money for Beijing.
On the staff accommodation side, there were in 1990 about fifty unfurnished hirings in three different foreigners’ enclaves of unappealing and poorly built blocks. Change was just beginning in the early 1990s, when joint venture commercial property developers began bringing better quality private rented accommodation to the rapidly emerging market. The first leased by the FCO were three houses in a development called East Lake Villas for the deputy head of mission and two counsellors.