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June 11, 1989

China Division, Asian Affairs Bureau [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan], 'The Situation in China (Moves to Bring the Situation Under Control)'

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Subject: The Situation in China (Moves to Bring the Situation Under Control)

Date and Time of Transmission: June 11 (Sunday), 19:30

Number of Pages for Transmission: 6

Transmitting Section: China Division, Asian Affairs Bureau

Message: Corrected Version of "The Situation in China (Deng Xiaoping’s Appearance)" Sent Earlier.

(title, part added  (see underlined words), mistakes corrected)

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The Situation in China (Moves to Bring the Situation Under Control)

June 11, 1989

China Division

1. The Facts

(1) Since his meeting with Gorbachev on his visit to China on May 16, there had been no reports of Deng Xiaoping’s movements. But on June 9, he was shown on television giving an important speech in a meeting with military cadres. Present were Yang Shangkun, Li Peng, Qiao Shi, Yao Yilin, Wan Li, Li Xiannian, Peng Zhen, Wang Zhen, and Bo Yibo (Zhao Ziyang and Hu Qili did not appear. Chen Yun appeared in a message expressing respect to the military).

(2) Deng Xiaoping in that major speech was severely critical of the recent activities and justified the armed suppression by the military in saying, "A small number of people caused turmoil, which they later turned into a counterrevolutionary riot. Their goal was to bring down the Communist Party, overthrow the socialist system, overthrow the People’s Republic of China, and establish a bourgeois republic."

(3) On the other hand, he stated that it was correct to adhere to the Four Cardinal Principles (see note below), which have been basic policy since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to promote reform and opening and that they would carry through without change.

(Note): (1) the socialist road; (2) dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) leadership of the Communist Party; (4) Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Zedong Thought

2. Evaluation of the Current Situation

Party and government leaders made almost no appearances following the armed suppression by the military before dawn on the morning of June 4, and there was reporting of conflict and quarrels within the leadership. However, the showing on June 9 that Deng Xiaoping was in good health and the appearance together of Li Peng, Yang Shangkun, Qiao Shi, and the Party elders means that the hardline faction in the Party and military under Deng have removed Zhao Ziyang and others. They will likely move to bring the situation under control for the time being along this line. (It is certain that Zhao Ziyang and Hu Qili have lost their positions. Even the military, which was reported to have had internal disagreements, appears to have united under Deng.)

3. Future Prospects

(1) Problems in Domestic Affairs

(a) China for the past month has been bringing the disorder under control and regaining surface stability. It will now be necessary to settle the recent situation through formal procedures in calling for "stability and unity." In that sense, attention will be paid to the form in which the full meeting of the Party Central Committee (the Fourth Plenary Session) is held, the details of the handling of Zhao Ziyang and others (the charges against them), and its scope. As for the present leadership, the thinking is that, for now, from the viewpoint of preserving "stability and unity," they will work to keep to a minimum personnel movement within the leadership and, on the other hand, devote their energies in the direction of such tightening of control as exposing students, intellectuals, and other anti-government groups to nip in the bud the movement for democratization

(b) However, one can say that what is great are the strong demands for democratization and liberalization of the masses (students, civilians), which became clear in this series of events, the indignation over the worsening of economic conditions and the injustice and corruption of bureaucrats, and the reaction against the present leadership, which suppressed this with force. It can also be said that the Party’s prestige has decisively declined, especially in the big cities. In addition, the "Communist Party one-party dictatorship, supported by the military," came sharply into view through the bringing of this situation under control. Together with the future strengthening of the military’s voice, the Party’s separation from the masses will be decisive. They did protect "one-party dictatorship" by armed suppression, but at great cost. The possibility cannot be excluded that, when the conditions for achieving modernization worsen and policy management focusing on the economy becomes more difficult, the domestic situation will once become unstable.  

(2) Problems in Promotion of Reform and Opening, Democratization

(a) A policy of reform and opening in the economy has been actively promoted under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping since 1978 but, in regard to reform of the political system, despite some measure of progress seen, a consistently harsh stance (the tightening of control by such means as the dismissal of Hu Yaobang from his position and the campaign against bourgeois liberalism, the defining of the recent demonstrations as "turmoil" and "counterrevolutionary riot," and the armed suppression) has been taken against demands for democratization that would shake the one-party dictatorship of the Communist Party. At present, when it has become clear that promoting reform and opening will inevitably give rise to movements for democratization and liberalization (concern over the shaking of one-party dictatorship), one could say that Deng and others in the leadership must seriously face the mutually contradictory proposition of how to modernize while maintaining a one-party dictatorship.

(b) Deng Xiaoping stressed in his important speech of June 9 that there would be no change in adhering to the line of reform and opening, but it is inevitable that the group within China’s party and government that has promoted reform and opening has suffered a major blow on account of the situation. There is a great possibility of modernization, which has depended on the introduction of funds and technology from the West, coming to a standstill. Specifically, there will likely be continuing adjustments in the economy. Further reform, such as that for prices, which have been effectively held up on account of such reasons as the inflation since last year and cadre corruption, will likely be shelved for the time being.

(c) The democracy movement has probably been stopped for the time being by the hardline stance of the authorities, but with the student movement showing such a widespread rise, which the Chinese leadership was unable to predict, one can say that the movement for democracy has become a major trend in China. One cannot exclude the possibility of it showing again a great rise on some future occasion (such as the death of Deng Xiaoping, for example). On the other hand, the leadership will be expected to take all possible means to block such a movement in order to protect the Communist Party’s one-party dictatorship.  In addition, so long as the 800 million peasants – who have almost no interest in political issues -- continue to exist as a conservative base pursuing only political stability and economic prosperity, the realization of democracy in China will not be easy.

(3) Effect on External Relations

(a) One can say that the military’s use of force and firing upon many defenseless students and civilians, incurring many casualties, under the martial law of China’s present leadership while the world was watching gave off dark and unstable impression of China’s dictatorial politics, worsened the country’s international image, and lost the international trust in China that had grown due to 10 years of efforts in reform and opening in a moment. It is probably inevitable that economic exchanges in particular, such as investment, will be greatly affected.

(b) It is conceivable that it will have a major psychological effect on Hong Kong’s return to Mainland China in 1997, such as doubts concerning Deng’s "One Country, Two Systems" and, furthermore, have a negative effect on the movement toward promoting exchanges with Taiwan.

(c) There is the possibility that relations with the United States – which cannot ignore domestic opinion that is sensitive to issues of democratization and human rights – will experience much friction of various types with the increasingly harsh controls on students and intellectuals in China (In particular, the treatment of Fang Lizhi, who is under the protection of the US Embassy, could become a major problem between the United States and China).

(d) On the other hand, in the event that relations of Japan, the United States, and Europe with China become negative, the possibility of China moving to strengthen relations with the Soviet Union cannot be excluded. It will probably be necessary to watch relations between China and the Soviet Union after order is restored.

(Note) The Soviet Union has not commented but reported only that "Deng has made an appearance."


Written on June 11, 1989, by Japan’s China Division, this document summarizes the activities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after the Tiananmen Square incident. It evaluates the CCP’s apparent change in party leadership, problems in domestic affairs, problems in promoting reform and opening, and effect on external relations.

Document Information


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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