A booth promoting study in the United Kingdom at the China Annual Conference for International Education and Expo in Beijing on Oct 23. GUO HAIPENG/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Young people from China and the United Kingdom should strengthen education exchanges, promote friendship and make new contributions to build closer bilateral ties, experts and diplomats from both countries said on Friday.

They made the remarks at a forum marking the 50th anniversary of government-sponsored Chinese students in the UK.

Themed"Creating a New Chapter in China-UK Cooperation on Education, Science and Technology in the New Era", the forum was hosted by the Western Returned Scholars Association.

Ding Zhongli, president of the association and vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said that when the two countries established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level in 1972, China sent 16 government-sponsored young people to the UK to study, which started a new chapter of comprehensive cooperation among the two countries.

Now, there are more than 220,000 Chinese students studying in the UK and the country has become the largest overseas study destination for Chinese students in Europe. Bilateral education cooperation has bright prospects, he said.

Faced with global challenges and unprecedented changes, stable and friendly relations between China and the UK in the long term are of concern to world peace and development, Ding said.

In the past 50 years, generations of Chinese students studying in the UK have made great contributions to bilateral ties. Young people from both countries, especially those studying in the other country should pick up the baton of friendship so as to make new progress in friendly bilateral relations, he added.

Caroline Wilson, UK ambassador to China, said that the education relationship between the UK and China has flourished in recent years.

"When education collaboration works well, it builds mutual understanding and trust. It teaches us what we have in common. It helps us explore our differences with respect," she said.

She said that when she travels around China, she is always impressed by the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of people have benefited from UK-China educational opportunities.

Since 1978, the UK has welcomed more than 750,000 students from the Chinese mainland, and there are also thousands of school pupils across the UK who are acquiring fluency in Mandarin, she added.

Zheng Zeguang, vice-president of the association and Chinese ambassador to the UK, said as a government-sponsored Chinese student to the UK 36 years ago, he has first-hand experience of China-UK education cooperation and knows its importance.

In the past 50 years, both countries have benefited greatly from sending students to the other country to study. The practice has helped nurture batches of talent and improved the teaching and research level of universities in both countries, Zheng said via video link.

Although the two countries have different historical and cultural backgrounds, social systems and are at different development stages, bilateral cooperation has broad prospects, and is in line with the fundamental interests of both countries, he said. Today, there are more than 220,000 Chinese students studying in the UK and almost 20,000 UK students studying in China, who can strengthen ties between the two countries.