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October 9, 1963

Transcript of Conversation between Zhou Enlai and Tanzan Ishibashi

This document was made possible with support from Chun & Jane Chiu Family Foundation




(October 9, 1963)


Mr. Ishibashi Tanzan (hereafter shortened to Ishibashi): Today I have quite a few questions that I’d like to discuss with you, Premier Zhou.  The most important of these questions is that of a Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty.  There seems to be some hope for this issue, but there are also many difficulties when it comes to the implementation of specifics.  What does the Premier think?


Premier Zhou Enlai (hereafter shortened to Zhou):  The U.S. has cooked up a one-on-one “peace treaty” with Japan, and Japan has also cooked up a Japan-Taiwan “treaty”; both of these have created the biggest obstacles to the People’s Republic of China and Japan concluding a peace treaty.  


The first method, from our perspective, would be for Japan to get rid of the Japan-Taiwan “treaty” and formally conclude a peace treaty with us.  This the best way.  However, at present the Japanese government has difficulty doing this.  Because the San Francisco Treaty was concluded under U.S. control, and the U.S. exerts great pressure on Japan, if Japan wants to get rid of this “treaty,” that would lead to problems with the U.S., and many difficulties.


The second method, if Japan doesn’t get rid of the Japan-Taiwan “treaty”, and just signs another treaty with the People’s Republic of China, would mean a lot of difficulties for us. It could create “two Chinas,” or even worse than “two Chinas.”  There is a serious contradiction here; Taiwan says that it represents all of China, and we say we represent all of China, of course we are the true representatives of all of the Chinese people.  How could it be possible that two governments representing all of the Chinese people could exist at the same time?  This is an enormous contradiction, and not only the Chinese people would absolutely not agree to do this, but Chiang Kai-shek [Jiang Jieshi] wouldn’t agree to do it either.  And you can’t find any precedents in international law, it just wouldn’t make sense.


There is also a third method, which would be for a responsible member of the Japanese government, the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister to visit New China and issue a statement that clearly indicates that [Japan] recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the one representing China.  This way, although there would not be a treaty between the two countries, we could still have friendly relations, be able to strive for peace in Asia, and effectively we would no longer be in a state of war. This would be the most courageous way of dealing with the issue, but the responsible persons in the current Japanese government do not have this kind of courage.


The fourth method would be for a former Prime Minister of Japan to visit China and issue a statement recognizing New China.  The first former Prime Minister to visit China was a former member of the Democratic Socialist Party, now member of the Socialist Party, Mr. Katayama Tetsu.  The second is Your Excellency, who has visited China twice.  Your Excellency is not merely a former Prime Minister, but also is a Diet member of the ruling party, representing one aspect of the Liberal Democratic Party, which only recognizes New China and does not recognize Taiwan, and has endeavored to restore Sino-Japanese relations, and advance the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations.  This is an indirect method, and also a cumulative, gradual method.  Right now we have practically adopted this fourth method, and by adopting this fourth method, we will both strive to achieve the first method.  It’s my hope that Your Excellency will also make this effort.


Ishibashi:  Among the citizens of Japan, particularly at the grassroots, there are some people who have feelings for Taiwan, and who oppose and block our friendship with China.  The right-wing forces represent these people, the same ones who have assassinated Mr. Asanuma.  Of course, we don’t fear these people, but inasmuch as there exists this feeling among our citizens, we can’t ignore it.  Mr. Katayama and Mr. Asanuma both advocated Sino-Japanese friendship, but they didn’t have much power. To truly form [sufficient] power, we have to do things differently.  Although it won’t be easy, nevertheless we have this wish.


Zhou:  If certain people in Japan have feelings for Taiwan, these feelings should be analyzed, we need to find out what kind of feelings these are. Calm analysis shows there are three kinds of feeling.  The first kind is a feeling rooted in the colonialism of the past.  They think of Taiwan as a Japanese colony, which was once cut off and ceded to Japan by China, and which had a fifty year connection to Japan.  Today in Japan there are still some people who maintain this sort of colonial ideology, who wish that Taiwan would be part of Japan, who think that since Taiwan has never been under the direct rule of the People’s Republic of China, it ought then to be given back to Japan.  This kind of thinking is unjust, it is an imperialist ideology, and anyone with a sense of justice will not approve of this kind of thinking.  The reason that Liao Wenyi’s group*[2] has been able to stay active in Japan is exactly because they have the support of a very small minority of Japanese, although needless to say the most important [support] comes from the U.S.  This type of feeling is not held by the majority of Japanese people, the majority of Japanese have already changed their past way of thinking.  The Chinese people are of course against this kind of feeling, so is Chiang Kai-shek.  The U.S. wants to take advantage of it, but there’s a contradiction.  The U.S. certainly doesn’t want to give Taiwan to Japan, but would like to see an “independent” Taiwan, which in practice would turn into an American colony.


The second type of feeling is a militarist feeling.  Like Okamura Yasuji*[3]* who was originally a class A war criminal, and who ought to be sanctioned by the International Court of Justice. But Chiang Kai-shek deliberately kept him in China, and later released him to Japan.  These old militarists are favorable towards Chiang Kai-shek, but not favorable towards the Chinese people; they want to assist Chiang Kai-shek in retaking the mainland, and Chiang Kai-shek also wants to use their past military experience of invading China.  They are in cahoots with each other, and even now still remain in contact.  People with this kind of ideology are a small minority of Japan’s rightwing elements.  They still hope to revive militarism.  These are the same people that instigated the Nagasaki Flag incident,*[4]**  assassinated Mr. Asanuma, and wrote threatening letters to you prior to your visit to China.  Of course, the Chinese people are against this type of feeling.  The Chinese people absolutely will not permit Chiang Kai-shek to retake the mainland or return to the mainland.  In Japan such thinking is opposed by the opposition party, by the laboring masses, as well as some smart people in the Liberal Democratic Party also oppose them, except for the extreme right.  Such thinking would drag Japan down the path of disastrous war and will absolutely not be accepted by the people of Japan.


The third type of feeling has to do with economic interaction; Japan and Taiwan have had decades of economic relations and a very close trade relationship. Japan imports sugar from Taiwan and exports many products to Taiwan.  This kind of feeling is easy to understand and we certainly don’t oppose it.  The whole world wants to do business with each other, and we don’t oppose business dealings between Japan and Taiwan, unlike Taiwan which objects to business dealings between Japan and China.  So this kind of feeling is certainly no obstacle to Sino-Japanese friendship.  But business relations by no means requires close political relations. Even if they are not close politically, Taiwan would still want to do business with Japan.


Of the three aforementioned types of feelings, the first two are unfriendly towards the Chinese people, just as you said, they are a tiny minority, not the vast majority.  In any country, the people’s feelings cannot all be one hundred percent correct, there will always be some unhealthy feelings.  Take China for example: there is also a small number of people who feel that given the long term Japanese invasion of China in the past, they find it hard to accept any talk of friendship with Japan.  However, a government must distinguish between the majority and the minority, and especially between the vast majority and a tiny minority.  The Chinese government is able to make this distinction.  For over ten years now, we have consistently upheld not only friendship between the Japanese and Chinese people, but that both governments need to move gradually towards friendship.  Your two visits to China are proof of this.  The vast majority of Japanese patriots also wish to advance Sino-Japanese friendship and the normalization of diplomatic ties.  Not only the opposition party, but the ruling party as well feels this way.


You have said that although the opposition party and non-governmental organizations support Sino-Japanese friendship, they cannot play a decisive role, primarily because they are not in power.  However, the opposition party and popular organizations still represent the desire of the Japanese people for friendship with China.  The ruling party can play a decisive role, it has the power to accede to and abrogate treaties, and it has the power to engage in mutual interaction.  Although the ruling party has this power, the question remains whether its leaders can make wise decisions. For instance, Mr. Hatoyama*[5] and Mr. Ishibashi tried to overcome all difficulties to advance Sino-Japanese friendship, and advance normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, despite the opposition of a tiny minority of people.  It’s a pity that these two gentlemen’s time in power was short, and they were unable to realize their wishes.


There is also the opposite path, taken by those who are unwilling to advance Sino-Japanese friendship and oppose the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations, like the administrations of Yoshida Shigeru and Kishi Nobusuke.*[6]  Consequently we have to condemn to their positions.


The third type is a swinging attitude.  For example, the Ikeda Hayato government, which on one hand permitted you, Mr. Matsumura, and Mr. Takasaki to come to China and carry on activities, in particular this past year, signing the Liao Chengzhi—Takasaki Tatsunosuke aide-memoire for trade, and most recently deciding to renew the non-governmental fisheries agreement, as well as holding the Japan Industrial Exhibition in China.  All of you, as representatives of the ruling party have exerted yourselves on behalf of Sino-Japanese friendship, which is an honorable act.  On the other hand, there are those in the Ikeda government, including some members of the ruling party who oppose Sino-Japanese friendship, incline towards Taiwan and fear the U.S., who keep dragging Ikeda backwards.  Of course, we still have hopes and are waiting on Ikeda.  However, unpleasantness frequently happens, which can interfere with the advancement of Sino-Japanese friendship, and which makes it hard for us to not speak up.  This is my view; does Your Excellency have any suggestions?


Ishibashi:  This is a complicated and difficult issue in international relations.  The Taiwan issue is fundamentally an internal affair of China.  However, it has brought trouble and difficulties for Japan.  We hope that China can rely on its own resources to resolve this issue, and it could also consult with the U.S.  It can be solved among China, the U.S., and Taiwan, relying on China’s own resources.  Has China given any thought to doing something like that?


Zhou:  There’s some contradictions in what you have said.  Because, as you said, the Taiwan issue is an internal affair of China, then the issue is not complicated.  If the Japanese government treats the Taiwan issue as China’s internal affair, establishes relations with New China, and allows China to resolve the Taiwan issue on its own, then the issue is not complicated.  But the issue isn’t so simple, and we understand Japan’s dilemma.  Japan is a defeated nation, the San Francisco Conference was held under U.S. control, and Japan had no choice but to conclude a “peace treaty” with the U.S., the UK and other countries.  But this is not equal, especially since the U.S. wants to control Japan, Japan is completely reactive, and so it had no choice but to conclude a “peace treaty” with U.S. controlled Taiwan, which excluded the People’s Republic of China.  At the time, it was the representatives of the Yoshida government who concluded this “peace treaty” and the Yoshida government followed the U.S. and was unfriendly towards China.  However, we understand Japan’s situation, so even though Japan has established so called diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we still wish for friendly contacts with the Japanese people and have been carrying out not just people-to-people, but also unofficial government-to-government contacts.  Such complications in international relations have been created by the U.S., as well as by Japan as a follower of the United States, but were not created by China.  This is our difficulty, not your difficulty. We have always maintained that the Taiwan issue is China’s internal affair, it is the United States that has turned it into an international issue, along with certain countries that follow the U.S.  There are also some other countries, which do not recognize Taiwan and only recognize New China; in that case, the issue is not complicated; there are over forty such countries.  There are also some countries which in their hearts would like to recognize New China, but so far haven’t, because they want to appease the U.S.  As for those countries, we hope that they will gradually free themselves from the U.S. and find a solution to the problem of establishing diplomatic relations with China.  China’s policy is known to all, it’s not a secret; I recall that I spoke of it when I first met with Your Excellency, though I didn’t discuss it in detail. Our solution is this:  the U.S. occupies Taiwan, interferes in the Chinese people’s liberation of Taiwan, this should be treated as an international issue. However, how the Chinese people are going to liberate Taiwan is an internal affair.  We firmly oppose the U.S. trying to keep mixing these two issues together.  The Sino-U.S. Warsaw talks have already gone on for more than eight years, and our policy is also well known.  We believe that the Chinese and American people want friendship, and that Sino-American issues can be resolved through peaceful consultations, there’s no need to resort to arms.  This is consistent with the United Nations Charter. The U.S. representatives also approve of this language.  Our attitude is that this language ought to be suitable for the Taiwan Straits.  We have not clashed with the U.S. military in the Taiwan Straits.  However, the U.S. wants to exclude Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits from other places which can be peacefully resolved.  The U.S. wants to maintain the Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Straits, and to maintain its military bases on Taiwan.  We say that the U.S. must leave.  They say, because they have a treaty relationship with Taiwan, therefore they need to “protect” it.  The Taiwan issue fundamentally is a Chinese domestic issue, Chiang Kai-shek was chased away by the Chinese people, and if the U.S. hadn’t “protected” Chiang Kai-shek, we could have settled it ourselves.  It was U.S. interference that made the issue so complicated.  The U.S. is afraid we will negotiate with Chiang Kai-shek, afraid that Chiang Kai-shek would abandon the U.S.  At the same time, the U.S. doesn’t want to support Chiang Kai-shek retaking the mainland, it fears that starting a war would not be beneficial to the U.S.  The U.S. approach is to retain its forces in Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits, to retain its military bases.  Chiang Kai-shek opposes this U.S. approach, he fears that his own troops and officials are getting old, and if he can’t motivate them with his call to retake the mainland, there will come a day when he is left behind, and the Americans will control Taiwan without him.  On this point we and Chiang Kai-shek are the same, we both oppose creating “two Chinas.”  This is different from the circumstances of East and West Germany or other countries, Taiwan’s present situation was caused by the Chinese civil war, and only became complicated due to later U.S. interference.  In any case, there are some countries which pay no attention to Taiwan, they are waiting for the situation to develop, when soon enough Taiwan will break free of American domination and return to the bosom of the motherland.  Our Japanese friends should also have this belief that the Taiwan issue isn’t so extraordinary, one day it will be resolved, and that without U.S. support, the Taiwan regime will not last even one day.  The Japanese government and the ruling party in Japan ought to see that the kind of feeling you just mentioned are only the sentiments of a few, a colonialist and militarist ideology, and can’t be treated as a significant factor. We can understand how Japan and Taiwan want their current relationship to continue.  But Japan shouldn’t be so ready to accommodate Taiwan at the slightest hint of intimidation.  Taiwan’s “Ambassador” in Japan, Zhang Lisheng, was my classmate, we know each other well, having studied in France together. Taiwan just acts tough, but in fact their Legislature has already admitted there is nothing they can do. The U.S. tries to manage too many things, they want to manage the entire world.  I believe that the day when the traditionally independent Japanese people and Japanese government will be able to shake free of the U.S. is steadily approaching.  We are not interested in anything other than steadily advancing Sino-Japanese relations, and to make it possible for the relationship to improve.  However, there are some people in the Liberal Democratic Party who want to use this issue as a bargaining chip and keep us down.  For instance, Japan’s representative at the United Nations supports treating the restoration of China’s legally rightful seat at the United Nations not as a procedural question, but as an important matter, thus requiring at two-thirds majority to pass.  This is serving as a spearhead for United States and is unfriendly to us.  There are some people in the Liberal Democratic Party who have been critical of this, who consider that at least [Japan] ought to abstain.  Even worse [are those] who play New China and Taiwan against each other, sometimes favoring New China, sometimes favoring Taiwan. Such an approach won’t end well and is detrimental to both sides.  We welcome Messrs. Ishibashi, Matsumura, Takasaki and others’ straightforward attitude.  Any issue should be discussed openly and fully, and we should sincerely exchange views.  The road to restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan will have twists and turns, it isn’t possible to solve this in one stroke, but if we just keep pushing forward, adopting a cumulative method, then it will be solved.  When Foreign Minister Ohira*[7] went to the U.S. he said China and Japan feel close to each other, so Japan cannot join in the U.S. policy of containing China.  We welcome that kind of language.




* This is an excerpt from the transcript of a conversation with former Japanese Prime Minister Ishibashi Tanzan (1884-1973).

* Liao Wenyi, aka Thomas Liao (1910-1986) Taiwanese independence activist.

** Okamura Yasuji (1884-1966), Japanese general, last commander of Japanese forces in China.  He was acquitted of all war crimes by the Tokyo Tribunal.  

*** In May 1958 Japanese rightists destroyed a publicly displayed PRC flag.

* Hatoyama Ichiro (1883-1959), Japanese politician, Prime Minister from 1954 to 1956.

* Yoshida Shigeru (1878-1976), Japanese politician, Prime Minister from 1948 to 1954.  Kishi Nobusuke (1896-1987), Prime Minister from 1957 to 1960.

* Ohira Masayoshi (1910-1980), Japanese politician; Foreign Minister in the Ikeda cabinet (1962-64) and again, later, in the Tanaka cabinet.

Premier Zhou speaks with former Japanese Prime Minister Tanzan Ishibashi about promoting Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations. Zhou expresses concern over the U.S.-Japan security treaty and the Japan-Taiwan treaty. Zhou says that diplomatic relations between China and Japan can be normalized when Japan recognizes the CCP as the sole representative of China. Ishibashi raises that there are some Japanese people that still have feelings towards Taiwan. Zhou classifies and explains the "feelings" of the Japanese public towards Taiwan into three groups.

Document Information


Zhou Enlai Waijiao wenxuan [Selected Diplomatic Papers of Zhou Enlai] (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian, 1990), pp. 340-348. Translated by Simon Schuchat.


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