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September 1989

Cable No. 2720, Ambassador Nakajima to the Foreign Minister, 'Japan-China Relations (Opinion Statement)'

This document was made possible with support from The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars



Telegraphic Copy [blacked out] 04-029

Number: R105705

Sent: China, September [day blacked out], 1989

Received: MOFA, September [day blacked out], 1989

Primary: China Division, Asian Affairs Bureau


To: Foreign Minister

From: Ambassador Nakajima

Japan-China Relations (Opinion Statement)


No. 2720 Secret Top Urgent [blacked out]

It is very regrettable, from the viewpoint of maintaining and developing friendly relations between Japan and China, that the social situation in China, particularly in Beijing, developed to the point of having to issue an “Evacuation Advisory” to Japanese nationals residing there. As an ambassador, I believe it is necessary, particularly under these circumstances, to take care in considering various aspects in our country’s actions toward China from a long-term viewpoint of Japan-China relations. I thus offer here my humble opinion as follows.

1. At present, the Chinese government is showing strong opposition to the sanctions levied against it by other countries for the imposition of martial law, use of military force, and bloodshed, as well as to the torrent of criticism from those countries. At the same time, in order to justify its own act of suppression by military force, the government is working earnestly to persuade the people and gain their support. The government is also strengthening its system of martial law, exposing reactionary elements and such.

2. The development of the situation in China remains uncertain. On the Chinese people’s side, voices of criticism of the government, which rose so high, were suppressed by military force. It seems that people are keeping quiet for now, but the scars are deep and a recurrence would bring tumult. On the other hand, the spread of unrest to the countryside and the proliferation of armed clashes are matters of concern. Although the conflict and struggle in the various groups within the Chinese leadership, as well as the divisions and disputes within the military, are showing some signs of convergence, it is expected that escaping the state of confusion and chaos will take more time. In general, I think that we should be prepared for a state of instability lasting for a considerably long time.

3. In such circumstances, amid increasing criticism of China from the United States and other Western countries, the attitude that our country takes hereafter will be noted. 

(1) Regarding China’s current problems, even though our country should keep to its basic attitude that they are internal affairs, we should make clear a definitely critical attitude in regard to the bloodshed of innocent civilians. On this point, I believe that the repeated statements of Prime Minister Uno, yours, the chief cabinet secretary, Vice Foreign Minister Murata, and other government officials are right.

(2) At present, the United States and other Western countries, under domestic pressure, are not only declaring their position but also increasing the degree of pressure exerted on China using economic sanctions and other actions  (this has already been done concerning military assistance), and there is a strong possibility that they will ask Japan to align with them. On the other hand, the Chinese side is strengthening its attitude of opposition, strongly opposing Fang Lizhi’s taking refuge inside the US Embassy, clamping down on Western media organizations to strengthen its system of martial law in Beijing, and such. Under such circumstances, and in view of the Chinese leadership’s current situation, it is unthinkable that the Chinese leadership would change its existing policies and attitude due to pressure from other countries. Rather, there is a risk of its having the opposite effect and making China’s attitude toward foreign countries increasingly inflexible. In addition, if such a situation were to occur, one could even imagine the possibility of anti-foreign sentiment spreading among the people at the instigation of the Chinese government. We must also consider the probability of such a development pushing China’s position toward the Soviet Union in the wake of Sino-Soviet normalization and bringing about subtle changes in the global strategic system following that normalization.

(3) Therefore, it is essential that our country’s government, while upholding the basic attitude in paragraph (1) above and criticizing the bloodshed of innocent civilians, do not align with economic sanctions against China, although there may be domestic pressure to do so, and, for the time being, maintain a cautious attitude of closely observing the situation.

Passed to [Japanese diplomatic missions in] Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang, and Hong Kong. (End)


An opinion statement on Japan-China relations sent by Ambassador Nakajima to the Foreign Minister and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan details Japan’s concerns over the Chinese government’s actions during the Tiananmen Square incident. Ambassador Nakajima provides an assessment of China’s response to foreign government’s sanctions, expresses uncertainty on future political developments in China, and provides policy prescriptions on Japan’s policy towards China going forward.

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2020-0545, Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs, published online by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Translated by Stephen Mercado.


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