British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd arrives in Beijing on Wednesday for five days of talks focused on the transition to Chinese rule in Hong Kong in 1997.
A key topic will be plans to build a new airport, which Britain says is needed to ensure Hong Kong's future but that Beijing fears could deplete the colony's financial reserves. London and Beijing are also at odds over the offer of full British citizenship as a safety net for key Hong Kong officials concerned about the Chinese takeover.
Hurd warned last week that China must show goodwill toward Hong Kong, which he said "is like a fragile and immensely valuable piece of porcelain. It cannot be buffeted about like everyday tableware without the risk of it breaking and becoming worthless."