People's Republic of China–Japan relations

People's Republic of China–Japan relations
Sino-Japanese relations
Map indicating locations of China and Japan



China and Japan are geographically separated only by a relatively narrow stretch of ocean. China has strongly influenced Japan with its writing system, architecture, culture, religion, philosophy, and law. When Western countries forced Japan to open trading in the mid-19th century, Japan moved towards modernization (Meiji Reformation), viewing China as an antiquated civilization, unable to defend itself against Western forces in part due to the Opium Wars and Anglo-French Expeditions from the 1840s to the 1860s. Japan's long chain of invasions and war crimes in China between 1894 and 1945 as well as modern Japan's attitude towards its past are major issues affecting current Sino-Japanese relations.

China and Japan are respectively the world's second and third-largest economies. In 2008, China-Japan trade grew to $266.4 billion, a rise of 12.5 percent on 2007, making China and Japan's top two-way trade partner. China was also the biggest destination for Japanese exports in 2009.


Pre-modern Times

First evidences of Japan in Chinese historical records AD 1-300

The first mention of the Japanese Archipelago was in the Chinese historic text Book of Later Han, in the year 57, in which it was noted that the Emperor of the Han Dynasty gave a golden seal to Wa (Japan). The seal itself was discovered in northern Kyūshū in the eighteenth century. From then on Japan was repeatedly recorded in Chinese historical texts, at first sporadically, but eventually continuously as Japan matured into a notable power in the region.

There is a Chinese tradition that the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, sent several hundred people to Japan to search for medicines of immortality. During the third century, Chinese travelers reported that inhabitants of Japan claimed ancestry from Wu Taibo, a king of the Wu state (located in modern Jiangsu and Zhejiang) during the Warring States era. They recorded examples of Wu traditions including ritual teeth-pulling, tattooing and carrying babies on backs. Other records at the time show that Japan already had the same customs recognized today. These include clapping during prayers, eating from wooden trays and eating raw fish (also a traditional custom of Jiangsu and Zhejiang before pollution made this impractical). Kofun era traditions appear in the records as the ancient Japanese built earthen mound tombs.

The first Japanese personage mentioned by the Wei Dynasty is Himiko, the female shaman leader of a country with hundreds of states called Yamataikoku. Modern historical linguists believe Yamatai was actually pronounced Yamato.

Introduction of Chinese political system and culture AD 600-900

During the Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty, Japan sent many students on a limited number of Imperial embassies to China, to help establish its own footing as a sovereign nation in northeast Asia. After the fall of the Korean confederated kingdom of Baekje (with whom Japan was closely allied) to combined Tang and Silla forces, Japan was forced to seek out the Chinese state on its own, which in those times was a treacherous undertaking, thus limiting the successes of Japanese overseas contacts during this time.

Important elements brought back from China (and some which were transmitted through Baekje to Japan) included Buddhist teachings, Chinese customs and culture, bureaucracy, architecture and city planning. The Japanese kimono is very similar to the clothing of the Tang Dynasty, and many historians believe that the Japanese started wearing robes like what Tang royalty wore, eventually adapting the garb to match Japanese culture. The capital city of Kyoto was also planned according to Feng Shui elements from the Chinese capital of Chang'an. During the Heian period, Buddhism became one of the major religions, alongside Shinto.

The use of Chinese model of Imperial government ceased by the tenth century, overtaken by traditional Japanese clan and family rivalries (Soga-Mononobe, Taira-Minamoto).

First China-Japanese battle

In AD 663 the Battle of Baekgang took place, the first China-Japanese conflict in recorded history. The battle was part of the ancient relationships between the Korean Three Kingdoms (Samguk or Samhan), the Japanese Yamato, and Chinese dynasties. The battle itself came near the conclusion of this period with the fall of Baekje, one of the Samguk or three Korean kingdoms, coming on the heels of this battle.

The background of the battle involves Silla (one of the Korean kingdoms) trying to dominate the Korean Peninsula by forging an alliance with the Tang Dynasty, who were trying to defeat Koguryo, an ongoing conflict that dated back to the Sui Dynasty. At the time, Koguryo was allied to Baekje, the third major Korean kingdom. Yamato Japan supported Baekje earnestly with 30,000 troops and sending Abe no Hirafu, a seasoned general who fought the Ainu in campaigns in eastern and northern Japan. As part of Silla's efforts to conquer Baekje, the battle of Baekgang was fought between Tang China, Baekje, Silla, and Yamato Japan.

The battle itself was a catastrophic defeat for the Yamato forces. Some 300 Yamato vessels were destroyed by a combined Silla-Tang fleet of half the number of ships, and thus the aid to Baekje from Yamato could not help on the land, having been defeated at sea. Baekje fell shortly thereafter, in the same year.

Once Baekje was defeated, both Silla and Tang focused on the more difficult opponent, Koguryo, and Koguryo fell in 668 AD. For the most part, Silla, having been rivals with Baekje, also was hostile to Yamato Japan, which was seen as a brother state to Baekje, and this policy continued (with one pause between roughly AD 670-730) after Silla united most of what is now Korea and repelled Tang China from what is now the Korean peninsula. Yamato Japan was left isolated for a time and found itself having to forge ties with mainland Asia on its own, having had the most safe and secure pathway obstructed by a hostile Silla.

The prosperities of marine trading 600-1600

Marine trades between China and Japan are well recorded, and many Chinese artifacts could be excavated. Baekje and Silla sometimes played the role of middleman, while direct commercial links between China and Japan flourished.

After 663 (with the fall of allied Baekje) Japan had no choice (in the face of hostility from Silla, which was temporarily deferred in the face of Tang imperialism - as Tang imperialism posed a threat both to Japan and unified Silla - but resumed in after 730 or so) but to directly trade with the Chinese dynasties. At first the Japanese had little long-range seafaring expertise of their own but eventually (some suggest with the aid of Baekje expatriates who fled their country when it fell) the Japanese improved their naval prowess as well as the construction of their ships.

The ports of Ningbo and Hangzhou had the most direct trading links to Japan and had Japanese residents doing business. Besides Korea during the Korean Three Kingdoms period (i.e. roughly AD 300-670), the Ryukyu Islands, once subjugated by the Japanese crown, also served as a stopover for China-Japanese trading. Commodities included fine porcelain, sandalwood, tea and silk. As a result of the close proximity to China (especially Jiangsu and Zhejiang), Kyushu and Ryukyu Island (then independent from Japan) traditions have Chinese influences in addition to influences from Baekje. Kagoshima and Okinawa cuisine have a dish called "kakuni" which is the same as "Dongpo pork" from Hangzhou: stewed pork in sugar, rice vinegar, ginger and soy sauce. Fried fish or meatballs (such as Satsuma age) are also traditionally from Southern China (mainly Zhejiang and Fujian). Noodle dishes (such as Hakata Ramen) and clay-pot casseroles are also Chinese influences. Okinawan palaces and dress show Chinese color styles, which use red, green, blue and gold adorned with mythical animals as opposed to naturalistic and simplistic traditional Japanese designs.

Direct trade with China was limited by the Tokugawa Shogunate after 1633, when Japan decided to close all direct links with the foreign world. Some trading was conducted by the Shimazu clan of Satsuma province through the Ryukyu Islands. Significant trading between China and Japan did not resume until the twentieth century, well into the modern age.

Japanese piracy on China's coasts and Mongol invasions from China and Korea 1200-1600

Japanese pirates (or Wokou) were a constant problem, not only for China and Korea, but also for Japanese society, from the thirteenth century until Hideyoshi's failed invasions of Korea at the end of the sixteenth century. Japanese pirates were often from the undesirable parts of Japanese society, and the Japanese were just as happy to be (for the most part) rid of them as they were raiding more prosperous shores (at the time, Japan was ravaged by civil wars, and so while Korea, China, and the Mongol Empire were enjoying relative peace, prosperity, and wealth, the Japanese were upon hard times).

Ming Dynasty's involvement to defeat Hideyoshi's Korean invasions of 1592-1598

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of the three unifiers of Japan (Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu were the others). After subduing the Mōri and Shimazu clans, Hideyoshi had the dream of eventually conquering China but needed to cross through Korea.

When Hideyoshi received refusals to his demands by Korea to cross the country to Ming Dynasty China, he invaded Korea. In the first year of invasion in 1592, the Japanese reached as far as Manchuria under Kato Kiyomasa and fought the Jianzhou Jurchens. King Seonjo requested aid from the Ming Dynasty, but since Japanese advances were so fast, only small Ming forces were initially committed. Konishi Yukinaga, who garrisoned in Pyongyang in winter 1592, first encountered and defeated a force of 5,000 Chinese soldiers. In 1593, greater Chinese participation under General Li Rusong with an army of 45,000 took Pyongyang with artillery and drove the Japanese to the south, but the Japanese counterattacked at Pyokjekwan.

As it turned out, the Japanese were unable to keep their supply lines clear and the Korean navy, under the command of Yi Sun-shin, was able to cut off supply lines between Japan and Korea frequently, eventually causing the Japanese forces in Korea to stall for lack of supplies. By 1593, it was clear to all that the Japanese forces would be unable to continue with their advance under the conditions, and the Japanese, for the most part, retreated into a few strongholds they still controlled on the Korean mainland.

After 1593, there was a truce of about four years. During that time, Ming granted Hideyoshi the title as "King of Japan" as withdrawal conditions, but Hideyoshi felt it insulted the Emperor of Japan and demanded concessions including the daughter of the Wanli emperor. Further relations soured and war reignited. The second invasion was far less successful for Hideyoshi. The Chinese and Koreans were much more prepared and quickly confined and besieged the Japanese in the south until they were finally driven to the sea and defeated by the Korean admiral Yi Sun Shin. The invasion was a failure but severely damaged the Korean cities, culture and countryside with huge civilian casualties (the Japanese massacred civilians in captured Korean cities). The invasions also drained Ming China's treasury and left it weak against the Manchus, who eventually destroyed the Ming Dynasty and created the Qing Dynasty in 1644.

Afterwards, Japan, under the Tokugawa Shogunate adopted a policy of isolationism until forced open by Commodore Perry in the 1850s.


Sino-Japanese Friendship and Trade Treaty, 13 September 1871. The treaty was signed in Tientsin, by Date Munenari and Li Hongzhang.

After the arrival of Commodore Perry and the forced opening of Japan to western trading, Japan realized it needed to modernize to avoid the humiliation of China during the Opium Wars. Anti-Tokugawa tozama[1] from the Shimazu and Mori clans overthrew the bakufu during the Meiji Restoration and restored the Japanese Emperor as head of state. Afterwards, military and government positions were taken by Mori and Shimazu clan members who institutionalized rapid modernization, militarization and imperialism based on Western countries. The first countries to feel Japanese Imperialism were China and Korea.

Friction between China and Japan arose from Japan's control over the Ryukyu Islands from 1870, annexation of Taiwan after the First Sino-Japanese war of 1894. China was almost forced to cede more territory in Manchuria but was saved by Russian intervention. Despite this, China still paid a huge indemnity and relinquished Taiwan. During the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, Japanese troops beheaded and executed many Chinese civilians in Liaoning and Manchuria after capturing cities, such as Port Arthur, but treated Russian prisoners with respect.[citation needed] Japanese troops participated in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 at the Siege of the International Legations (Boxer Rebellion), Seymour Expedition, Battle of Tientsin, Gasalee Expedition, Battle of Beitang and Battle of Beicang. The Chinese were again forced to pay another huge indemnity to Japan, but Japan was pressured to accept much less by the U.S. Rivalries between the imperialist Western nations and Japan prevented China from being carved up into many colonies. During World War I, the Japanese attacked and occupied the German colony in Qingdao. The Japanese also issued the infamous Twenty-one Demands in 1915. After World War I, China felt betrayed by the Allied countries as China was an Allied nation but was forced to give territory in Shandong to Japan and accept the Twenty-one Demands. This culminated in the May Fourth Movement. However, Japanese imperialistic aims steadily increased over the 1920s, focusing on Manchuria.

In the beginning of the Showa era, the Japanese wanted to occupy Manchuria for its resources, but the powerful warlord, Zhang Zuolin stood in their way. His train was bombed by Japanese agents in 1928. In 1931, Japan fully occupied Manchuria and created a new state called Manchukoku (Manchukuo), after a series of incidents culminating in the Mukden Incident and came to full scale invasion of China in July 1937. Japan was soon able to gain control over all Chinese outlying territories.[2]

The period between the Mukden Incident in 1931 and the official beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 involved constant regional armed resistance to Japanese advances in Manchuria and North China, and Nanjing's efforts in stopping further encroachments through diplomatic negotiations. This era was turbulent for the Chinese Nationalists, as it was mired in a civil war with the Chinese Communists and maintained an uneasy truce with remnant warlords, who nominally aligned with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), following the Northern Expedition. This period also saw the Chinese Nationalists' pursuit in modernizing its National Revolutionary Army, through the assistance of Soviet, and later German, advisors.

The Japanese invaded Beijing after accusing the Chinese Second United Front troops of shooting at Marco Polo Bridge. This marked the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Chinese nationalist aircraft then bombed Japanese positions in Shanghai and marked the beginning of the Battle of Shanghai. Afterwards, the Japanese advanced and faced little resistance as the best Chinese troops were sacrificed in Shanghai. Japanese troops massacred Chinese prisoners of war (considered shameful by Japanese Bushido) and civilians over the course of two months during the Rape of Nanking. Actual numbers of killed vary according to Chinese or Japanese sources. Chinese sources accept 300,000 or more killed.

The war became a struggle of attrition after 1940 as major Chinese forces were exhausted. After the USA involved itself in the World War II, the Chinese received more supplies, but Chiang Kai-shek hoarded the money and weapons to fight the Communists after the Americans defeated Japan. Due to this, Japanese troops were able to make advances in China as late as 1944 and 1945 during Operation Ichi-Go. After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, the Japanese finally surrendered.

The Republic of China (ROC) administrated Taiwan after Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945, following decision of the Allied Powers at the Cairo Conference in 1943. The ROC moved its central government to Taiwan in December 1949. Later, no formal transfer of the territorial sovereignty of Taiwan to the PRC was made in the post-war San Francisco Peace Treaty, and these arrangements were confirmed in the Treaty of Taipei concluded by the ROC and Japan in 1952. At the time, the Taiwanese authorities (the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT)) were recognized by Japan, not communist China (the People's Republic of China, or PRC). As such, the KMT did not accept Japanese reparations only in the name of the ROC government. Later, the PRC also refused reparations in the 1970s. See more details in the section about World War II reparations and the statement by Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama (August, 1995).


After the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, relations with Japan changed from hostility and an absence of contact to cordiality and extremely close cooperation in many fields. Japan was defeated and Japanese military power dismantled, but the PRC continued to view Japan as a potential threat because of the United States Forces Japan's presence there. One of the recurring PRC's concerns in Sino-Japanese relations has been the potential remilitarization of Japan. On the other hand, some Japanese fear that the economic and military power of the PRC has been increasing (cf. Potential_superpowers#China).

The Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance included the provision that each side would protect the other from an attack by "Japan or any state allied with it" and the PRC undoubtedly viewed with alarm Japan's role as the principal US military base during the Korean War. The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan signed in 1951 also heightened the discouragement of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Japan pushed dissension between the two countries even further by concluding a peace treaty with the PRC and establishing diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese authorities.

Like most western nations at the time, Japan had recognized Taipei as the sole legitimate Chinese government. Initially, neither country allowed its political differences to stand in the way of broadening unofficial contacts, and in the mid-1950s they exchanged an increasing number of cultural, labor, and business delegations.

Although all these things complicated the relationship between the two countries, Beijing orchestrated relations with Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGO) through primarily the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA). The CPIFA would receive Japanese politicians from all parties, but the Japanese left-wing parties were more interested in the PRC's initiatives. In 1952, the Chinese Commission for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) was able to get a trade agreement signed by the Japanese Diet members. Liao Chengzhi, the deputy director of the State Council's Office of Foreign Affairs, was able to arrange many other agreements "such as the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war with the Japanese Red Cross (1954), and the Fishery Agreement with the Japan-China Fishery Association (1955)."[2] Although during this time, the relationship between the two countries were primarily unofficial, the agreements were essential in bringing together a more amalgamated environment.

The PRC began a policy of attempting to influence the United States through trade, "people's diplomacy", contacts with Japanese opposition political parties, and through applying pressure on Tokyo to sever ties with Taipei. In 1958, however, the PRC suspended its trade with Japan—apparently convinced that trade concessions were ineffective in achieving political goals. Thereafter, in a plan for improving political relations, the PRC requested that the Japanese government not be hostile toward it, not obstruct any effort to restore normal relations between itself and Japan, and not join in any conspiracy to create two Chinas. After the Sino-Soviet break, economic necessity caused the PRC to reconsider and revitalize trade ties with Japan.


The Soviet Union suddenly withdrew Soviet experts from the PRC in the 1960s, which resulted in an economic dilemma for the PRC. The PRC was left with few options, one of which was to have a more official relationship with Japan.

Tatsunosuke Takashi, member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and of the Diet and Director of the Economic Planning Agency of the Japanese, went to the PRC in order to sign a memorandum that would further the trade relations between the two countries, better known as the Liao-Takasaki Agreement. Under its terms, Chinese purchases of industrial plants were to be financed partly through medium-term credits from Japan Export-Import Bank (JEXIM). The accord also permitted the PRC to open a trade mission in Tokyo and in 1963 paved the way for Japanese government approval of the export to mainland China of a synthetic textile manufacturing plant valued at around US$ 20 million, guaranteed by the bank. Subsequent protest from the ROC caused Japan to shelve further deferred-payment plant exports. The PRC reacted to this change by downgrading its Japan trade and intensified propaganda attacks against Japan as a "running dog" (Chinese:"走狗") of the United States.

Sino-Japanese ties declined again during the Cultural Revolution, and the decline was further exacerbated by Japan's growing strength and independence from the United States in the late 1960s. The PRC was especially concerned that Japan might remilitarize to compensate for the reduced US military presence in Asia brought about under president Richard Nixon. As the turmoil subsided, however, the Japanese government– already under pressure both from the pro-Beijing factions in the LDP and from opposition elements– sought to adopt a more forward posture.


Kawashima says:[3]

Various arguments have been presented for applying the European model to Asia, bringing about an Asian balance of power by weaving a network of alliances, ententes, or so-called strategic relationships among major players, including the United States. Particularly notable is the emergence of a new school of thought in Japan that stresses the importance to Japan of having better relations with India or Russia as a counterforce to China. That strategy certainly is a product of the end of the cold war, and it reflects the sense of uncertainty and anxiety among the Japanese about China’s future course, given the country’s sheer size and robust economic growth, as well as the fact that a considerable portion of the fruit of that growth is allocated for defense.

In December 1971, the Chinese and Japanese trade liaison offices began to discuss the possibility of restoring diplomatic trade relations, and in July 1972, Tanaka Kakuei succeeded Sato Eisaku as a new Japanese Prime Minister. Tanaka assumed a normalization of the Sino-Japanese relations. Furthermore, the 1972 Nixon visit to China encouraged the normalization process. His visit to Beijing culminated in the signing a joint statement on September 29, 1972. It established diplomatic relations between Japan and the PRC. In a point of Chinese view, an impressive compromise was attained. The Japanese agreed to most of the PRC’s demands, including the political status of Taiwan. Subsequently, the bilateral economic relationships grow rapidly: 28 Japanese and 30 Chinese economic and trade missions visited their partner country.

The joint communiqué says:[4]

  1. The abnormal state of affairs that has hitherto existed between Japan and the People's Republic of China is terminated on the date on which this Joint Communique is issued.
  2. The Government of Japan recognizes that Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China.
  3. The Government of the People's Republic of China reiterates that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic of China. The Government of Japan fully understands and respects this stand of the Government of the People's Republic of China, and it firmly maintains its stand under Article 8 of the Postsdam Proclamation.
  4. The Government of Japan and the Government of People's Republic of China have decided to establish diplomatic relations as from September 29, 1972. The two Governments have decided to take all necessary measures for the establishment and the performance of the functions of each other's embassy in their respective capitals in accordance with international law and practice, and to exchange ambassadors as speedily as possible.
  5. The Government of the People's Republic of China declares that in the interest of the friendship between the Chinese and the Japanese peoples, it renounces its demand for war reparation from Japan.
  6. The Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China agree to establish relations of perpetual peace and friendship between the two countries on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence. The two Governments confirm that, in conformity with the foregoing principles and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, Japan and China shall in their mutual relations settle all disputes by peaceful means and shall refrain from the use or threat of force.
  7. The normalization of relations between Japan and China is not directed against any third country. Neither of the two countries should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.
  8. The Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China have agreed that, with a view to solidifying and developing the relations of peace and friendship between the two countries, the two Governments will enter into negotiations for the purpose of concluding a treaty of peace and friendship.
  9. The Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China have agreed that, with a view to further promoting relations between the two countries and to expanding interchanges of people, the two Governments will, as necessary and taking account of the existing non-governmental arrangements, enter into negotiations for the purpose of concluding agreements concerning such matters as trade, shipping, aviation, and fisheries.

Negotiations for a Sino-Japanese peace and friendship treaty began in 1974, but soon broken off in September 1975. The PRC insisted the anti-hegemony clause, which was directed at the Soviet Union, be included in the treaty. Japan objected the clause and did not wish to get involved in the Sino-Soviet split.

However, the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 brought economic reform to the PRC, which led to the expected Japanese investment in the Chinese economy.

In February 1978, a long-term private trade agreement led to an arrangement by which trade between Japan and the PRC would increase to a level of US$20 billion by 1985, through exports from Japan of plants and equipment, technology, construction materials, and machine parts in return for coal and crude oil. This long-term plan, which gave rise to inflated expectations, proved overly ambitious and was drastically cut back the following year as the PRC was forced to reorder its development priorities and scale down its commitments. However, the signing of the agreement reflected the wish on both sides to improve relations.

In April 1978, a dispute over the territoriality of the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands), a cluster of barren islets north of Taiwan and south of the Ryukyu Islands flared up and threatened to disrupt the developing momentum toward resuming peace treaty talks. Restraint on both sides led to a resolution.

Talks on the peace treaty were resumed in July, and the agreement was reached in August on a compromise version of the anti-hegemony clause.[5] The Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China was signed on August 12 and came into effect October 23, 1978, under the two leaders of Deng Xiaoping and Fukuda Takeo.


A "Golden Age" marked by the development of complementary interests flourished from the 1980s to the mid-1990s. Sino-Japanese relations made considerable progress in the 1980s.[citation needed]

The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Hu Yaobang, visited Japan in November 1983, and Prime Minister Nakasone reciprocated by visiting the PRC in March 1984. While Japanese enthusiasm for the Chinese market reached highs and lows, broad strategic considerations in the 1980s steadied Tokyo's policy toward Beijing. In fact, Japan's heavy involvement in the PRC's economic modernization reflected in part a determination to encourage peaceful domestic development in the PRC, to draw the PRC into gradually expanding links with Japan and the West, and to reduce the PRC's interest in returning to its more provocative foreign policies of the past.

Many of Japan's concerns about the Soviet Union duplicated PRC's worries. They included the increased deployment in East Asia of Soviet armaments, the growth of the Soviet Pacific fleet, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the potential threat it posed to Persian Gulf oil supply routes, and an increased Soviet military presence in Vietnam. In response, Japan and the PRC adopted notable complementary foreign policies, designed to isolate the Soviet Union and its allies politically and to promote regional stability.

In Southeast Asia, both countries provided strong diplomatic backing for the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to bring about a Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia. Japan cut off all economic aid to Vietnam and provided substantial economic assistance to Thailand to help with resettling Indochinese refugees. The PRC was a key supporter of Thailand and of the Cambodian resistance groups.

In Southwest Asia, both nations backed the condemnation of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan; they refused to recognize the Soviet-backed Kabul regime, and sought through diplomatic and economic means to bolster Pakistan.

In Northeast Asia, Japan and the PRC sought to moderate the behavior of their Korean partners, South Korea and North Korea, to reduce tensions. In 1983 both the PRC and Japan strongly criticized the Soviet proposal to redeploy some of their armaments to Asia.

Japan encountered a number of episodes of friction with the PRC during the rest of the 1980s. In 1982, a serious political controversy was aroused over a revision of Japanese history textbooks dealing with the war between China and Japan during 1931-45 (cf. Japanese history textbook controversies). In late 1985, Chinese officials complained harshly about Prime Minister Nakasone's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japanese soldiers who had died in service of the Emperor some of whom are war criminals. See also China Internet information centre: the issue of Guanghualiao.

Under Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, the Japanese government reemphasized the relationship to the United States. The U.S. strategic emphasis upon East Asia allegedly shifted the PRC to Japan in 1983. Beijing felt isolation and concerning anew about possible revival of Japanese militarism. By the mid-1983, Beijing had decided coincidentally with its decision to improve relations with the Reagan administration of the United States to solidify ties with Japan.

Economic issues centered on Chinese complaints that the influx of Japanese products into the PRC had produced a serious trade deficit for the PRC. Nakasone and other Japanese leaders tried to relieve above concerns during visits to Beijing and in other talks with Chinese officials. They assured the Chinese of Japan's continued large-scale development and commercial assistance, and to obstruct any Sino-Soviet realignment against Japan.

At the popular level in the PRC, it was not easy to allay concerns. Student led demonstrations against Japan (cf. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China), on the one hand, helped reinforce Chinese officials' warnings to their Japanese counterparts. On the other hand, it was more difficult to change popular opinion in the PRC than it was to change the opinions of the Chinese officials.

Meanwhile, the removal of the General Secretary of the CPC, Hu Yaobang, in 1987 was detrimental to smooth Sino-Japanese relations because Hu had built personal relationships with Nakasone and other Japanese leaders. The PRC government's harsh crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in the spring of 1989 caused Japanese policymakers to realize that the new situation in the PRC was extremely delicate and required careful handling to avoid Japanese actions that would push the PRC further away from reforms. Beijing leaders reportedly judged at first that the industrialized countries would relatively quickly resume normal business with the PRC after a brief period of complaint over the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. When that did not happen, the PRC officials made strong suggestions to Japanese officials that they break from most industrialized nations by pursuing normal economic intercourse with the PRC, consistent with Tokyo's long-term interests in mainland China. Japanese leaders like West European and U.S. leaders were careful not to isolate the PRC and continued trade and other relations generally consistent with the policies of other industrialized democracies. But they also followed the United States lead in limiting economic relations to the PRC.


Bilateral structural change developed during the late 1990s to 2004. Japan had been investing in the PRC during the early 1990s, and trade decreased during the late 1990s, but resurged at the millennium. The resurgence might have been because of the prospect of the PRC becoming a part of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


By 2001 China’s international trade was the sixth-largest in the world; and over the next several years it was expected to be just under Japan, the fourth largest.

Today, Japan is beginning to invest in the PRC less; a growing movement to cease Official development assistance (ODA) support[6] is beginning to flourish within the Japanese public. Many[who?] argue that Japan should cease aid to the PRC for two major reasons:

  1. It effectively subsidizes the PRC's military build-up to give economic assistance to the PRC, which increasingly threatens Japan’s security.
  2. It helps the PRC to give assistance to many other developing countries, particularly in Africa, and there is no need to assist any country that can afford to assist others.[7]

Those who[who?] argue against cutting developmental on support to the PRC note that by aiding the PRC, the Chinese government is more likely to play by the rules of the international system, and that aid is an atonement for Japan's pre-war and World War II damage[citation needed]. Tension erupted periodically over trade and technology issues. The PRC concern over potential Japanese military resurgence and controversy regarding Japan's relations with Taiwan[citation needed].


In early 2005, Japan and the United States had issued a joint statement which "encourages the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue".[8] The PRC was angered by the statement, and protested the interference in its internal affairs.[9] The Anti-Secession Law was passed by the third conference of the 10th National People's Congress of the PRC, and was ratified in March 2005, and then the law went into effect immediately. Subsequently, anti-Japanese demonstrations took place simultaneously in the PRC and other Asian countries.

However, the "warm" relationship between the PRC and Japan has been revived by two Japanese Prime Ministers, Shinzo Abe and particularly Yasuo Fukuda whose father achieved to conclude the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China. In May 2008, Hu Jintao was the first Chinese President in over a decade to be invited to Japan on an official visit, and called for increased "co-operation" between the two countries. A "forth" joint statement[10] by President Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda read:

"The two sides resolved to face history squarely, advance toward the future, and endeavor with persistence to create a new era of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" between Japan and China. They announced that they would align Japan-China relations with the trends of international community and together forge a bright future for the Asia-Pacific region and the world while deepening mutual understanding, building mutual trust, and expanding mutually beneficial cooperation between their nations in an ongoing fashion into the future".

In October 2008, Japanese Prime Minister Aso Taro visited Beijing for celebrating the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China. At the reception, he remarked on his "personal conviction regarding Japan-China relations":[11]

"We should not constrain ourselves in the name of friendship between Japan and China. Rather, sound competition and active cooperation will constitute a true "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests." Confucius said, "At thirty, I stood firm." In the same way, Japan and China must now stand atop the international stage and work to spread to the rest of the world this spirit of benefiting together".


In 2010, China overtook Japan as the world's second-largest economy.[12]

2010 Trawler collision

On September 7, 2010, after a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the captain of the trawler, Zhan Qixiong, was arrested by Japanese sailors, sparking tensions.[13] Some media outlets speculated that China's contemporary reduction of export quotas of rare earth metals, now more in demand in China as its high-tech industry develops,[14] including reduction to Japan, could be related to the dispute.[15][16] Although officials from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce denied such a relationship,[17][18] the Japanese government took this action by China as a de facto trade embargo and decided to set aside 53.3 billion yen for the following measures to reduce dependence on Chinese mineral resources: [19][20][21]

  • Development of rare earth minerals abroad 19.7
  • Recycling, urban mining and developing alternative technology by the government and the private sector 1.6
  • Developing offshore oil and gas in Japan 16.3
  • Pre-feasibility study on methane hydrate deposits 8.9
  • Study on cobalt rich crust and other undersea reserves 6.8 (Cobalt rich crusts are undersea mineral deposits that contain manganese, cobalt, nickel and platinum, as well as rare earths such as neodymium and dysprosium.)

2011 Japanese White Paper

In 2011, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu criticized the annual Japanese defense white paper for calling attention to the "China threat theory".[22]

Bilateral sensitive issues

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC points out some sensitive issues between Japan and the PRC:[23]

  1. Issue of history
  2. Issue of Taiwan
  3. Issue of Senkaku Islands
  4. Issue of Japanese-American security co-operation
  5. Issue of war reparations
  6. Japanese chemical weapons discarded in China

As Iechika[24] and many others point out, the fundamental concerns of the Sino-Japanese relations has been the issues of history and Taiwan. Therefore, this article describes the above two issues in the following.

Issue of history

The PRC joined other Asian countries, such as South Korea, North Korea and Singapore, in criticizing Japanese history textbooks that whiten Japanese war crimes in World War II. They claimed that the rise of militarism became evident in Japanese politics. Much anti-Japanese sentiment has raised, and this has been exacerbated by burgeoning feelings of Chinese nationalism and former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.[25] Although Koizumi openly declared– in a statement made on April 22, 2005 in Jakarta– "deep remorse" over Japan's wartime crimes (the latest in a series of apologies spanning several decades), many Chinese observers regard the apology as insufficient and not backed up by sincere action.[26]

There also remains the dispute over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands), which has resulted in clashes between Taiwanese (Chinese) protesters and the Japanese government. The latest disputes, in April 2005, have led to anti-Japanese protests and sporadic violence across the PRC, from Beijing to Shanghai, later Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shenyang.[27]

Furthermore, the PRC and Japan continually debate over the actual numbers killed in the Rape of Nanking. The PRC allege at least 300,000 civilians were murdered while Japan argues it to be far less. Some question whether the Rape of Nanjing even occurred; a Japanese-produced documentary film released just prior to the 60th anniversary of the massacre, titled The Truth about Nanjing, denies that any such atrocities took place. These disputes have stirred up enmity against Japan from the global Chinese community, including Taiwan. There is a Japanese newspaper article from 1937 that reports a murdering contest between two Japanese officers who killed more than 200 Chinese civilians combined. Both soldiers survived the war and were executed by the Chinese government after extradition.

Japan's compensation

One of the many factors contributing to the bankruptcy of the Qing government was the requirement for the payment of war reparations. During the Qing dynasty, the Chinese continually paid huge amounts of silver to Japan. Japan was a recipient of compensation as a result of the outcome of many treaties, including the Sino-Japan Amity Treaty (1871), Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895), the Triple Intervention (1895) and the Boxer Protocol (1901).

After the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95, according to the Chinese scholar, Jin Xide, the Qing government paid a total of 340,000,000 taels of silver to Japan for both reparations and "booty", equivalent to (then) 510,000,000 Japanese yen, or about 6.4 times the annual revenue of the government of Japan. Similarly, the Japanese scholar, Ryoko Iechika,[28] calculated that the Qing government paid total $21,000,000 (about one third of revenue of the Qing government) in war reparations to Japan, or about 320,000,000 Japanese yen, equivalent to (then) two and half years of Japanese government revenue. The payments from the Qing government were used by Japan for expansion of its Navy (38.2% of the payment), ad hoc military expenditures (21.6%), direct expansion of the Army (15.6%), and development of naval battleships (8.2%).

On 3 September 1995, Jiang Zemin, the core-leader of the third generation of the Communist Party of China (CPC), states, “China suffered economy loses directly about $100,000,000,000 and about $500,000,000,000 indirectly by the Japanese military invasion".[29] Given these facts, when Japan concluded the Treaty of Taipei with the ROC in 1952, Chiang Kai-shek waived reparations for the World War II. Similarly, when Japan normalized relations with mainland China in 1972, Mao Zedong waived Japan’s reparations for World War II.[30] According a Japanese Sinologist calculation Japan would have to pay 52 trillion yen.[31] However, when the Qing dynasty lost the war in 1894-95 and the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, according to Yabuki Susumu, the PRC paid a total 289,540,000 taels[32] of silver to Japan, despite the weak economy of the Qing dynasty. Even though Japan had great economic power in 1972 (GNP $300 billion), Japan did not pay any money to the PRC for the war because China waived all rights to reparations.

Despite the Japanese Prime Minister's apology for Japanese crimes on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war's end, many Chinese feel there is a lack of true remorse for the wartime crimes. This has been reinforced by Japanese Prime Ministers' continued visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, viewed by some as a symbol of Japan's past fanaticism and militarism. Ex-Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, however, vowed never to visit the Shrine while in power.

Issue of Taiwan

The Japan-Taiwan official split is one of the fundamental principles of Sino-Japanese relations. The PRC emphasises Taiwan is a part of China and the PRC is the only legal government of China (cf. One-China policy). By the 1972 agreement, the Treaty of Taipei was argued to be invalid.

When the PRC-Japan normalization was concerned, the PRC had been worried about some Japanese pro-Taiwan independence politicians. At the same time, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (1960- ) has been a big problem for the PRC. In a point of the PRC's view, the military alliance treaty implicitly directs to the Taiwan Strait. It has become a big factor for Taiwan security affairs.

VIP Inter-visits

From Japan to China
Year Name
1972 Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka
1979 Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira
1982 Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki
1984 Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
1986 Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
1988 Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita
1991 Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu
1992 Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress
1994 Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa
1995 Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama
1997 Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto
1999 Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi
2001 Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (APEC in Shanghai)
2006 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
2007 Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
2008 Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (Summer Olympics in Beijing)

Prime Minister Taro Aso (ASEM in Beijing)

From China to Japan
Year Name
1978 Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping
1979 Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping
1980 Premier Hua Guofeng (state guest)
1982 Premier Zhao Ziyang
1983 General Secretary Hu Yaobang
1989 Premier Li Peng
1992 General Secretary Jiang Zemin
1995 General Secretary Jiang Zemin (APEC in Osaka)
1997 Premier Li Peng
1998 President Jiang Zemin (state guest)
2000 Premier Zhu Rongji
2007 Premier Wen Jiabao
2008 President Hu Jintao (state guest)
President Hu Jintao (G8 summit in Hokkaido)

Premier Wen Jiabao (Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit in Fukuoka)

Some Sino-Japanese top meetings have been held somewhere else. In recent time, both leaders have met individually at the international conferences such as APEC and ASEAN Plus Three. During Koizumi premiership, such occasions were valuable opportunities for political contacts between Japan and China.

See also


  1. ^ major clans who sided against Tokugawa Ieyasu during the battle of Sekigahara in 1600
  2. ^ a b Barnouin, Barbara; Changgen, Yu (1998). Chinese Foreign Policy during the Cultural Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 113–116. ISBN 0-7103-0580-X. 
  3. ^ Kawashima (2003:12)
  4. ^ "Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China". MOFA. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  5. ^ (Article 2) “The Contracting Parties declare that neither of them should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region or in any other region and that each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.” MOFA: Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China
  6. ^ "Review on Japan's ODA to China". MOFA. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  7. ^ This argument is only the point of view of a very small minority of Japanese, while the rest of Japan does not hold these views. This does seem to be the popular, misinformed view of most Chinese nationalist scholars, however.
  8. ^ "Joint Statement U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee". MOFA. 2005-02-19. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  9. ^ an argument China uses often to support their nationalistic aims
  10. ^ "Joint Statement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China on Comprehensive Promotion of a "Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests" (May 7, 2008)". MOFA. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  11. ^ "Remarks by H.E. Mr. Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan, at the Reception to Commemorate the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China "My Personal Conviction regarding Japan-China Relations" (October 24, 2008)". MOFA. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  12. ^ "China surges past Japan as No. 2 economy; US next?".;_ylt=As4hhu.nH4lmeEzte4h.aJxY_aF4;_ylu=X3oDMTM1c2tpc3R0BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwODE2L2FzX2phcGFuX2Vjb25vbXkEY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwM3BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcmllcwRzbGsDY2hpbmFvdmVydGFr. Retrieved 2010-10-04. [dead link]
  13. ^ "High-seas collisions trigger Japan-China spat". Agence France-Presse. Tokyo. 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  14. ^ Lewis, Leo (2009-12-10). "Japan moves on rare earth metals". The Australian. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  15. ^ Krugman, Paul (2010-10-17). "Rare and Foolish". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  16. ^ Tabuchi, Hiroko (2010-10-24). "Japan Calls on China to Resume Rare Earth Exports". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  17. ^ "China denies banning rare earth exports to Japan". People's Daily. 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  18. ^ Foster, Malcolm (2010-09-14). "Japan releases Chinese boat captain amid dispute". Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  19. ^ "FACTBOX-Japan budgets $650 mln for rare earths, resources". Reuters. 2011-01-5. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  20. ^ "元素戦略プロジェクト". Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  21. ^ "希少金属代替材料開発プロジェクト". Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  22. ^ "China says Japan defence paper 'irresponsible'." AFP, 4 August 2011.
  23. ^ "Bilateral relations to Japan: Some sensitive issues". FMPRC. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  24. ^ Iechika (2003)
  25. ^ A Shinto shrine that offers prayers for the war dead including 14 Class A war criminals
  26. ^ with more than 80 Parliament members and a Cabinet minister making a pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine just hours earlier[citation needed]
  27. ^ World[dead link]
  28. ^ Iechika (2003:67)
  29. ^ Iechika (2003:18)
  30. ^ See the Article 5 of Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China in 1972.
  31. ^ Today's Japanese annual budget (2006 data) is about 80 trillion yen (about 40 trillion yen tax revenue plus 40 trillion yen "red" national debts), with Japan’s GDP about 9.4 trillion yen in 1971
  32. ^ 1 tael = 38 grams or 1 ⅓ ounces
  • Hunt, Michael H. (1996). The Genesis of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10311-5. 
  • Stegewerns, Dick (Ed.) (2003). Nationalism and Internationalism in Imperial Japan. New York: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-203-98905-8. 
  • Jian, Sanqiang (1996). Foreign Policy Restructuring as Adaptive Behavior: China’s Independent Foreign Policy 1982-1989. Maryland: University Press of America. 

Further reading

  • Barnouin, Barbara & Yu Changgen (1998) Chinese Foreign Policy during the Cultural Revolution, Columbia University Press
  • Berger, Thomas U., Mike M. Mochizuki & Jitsuo Tsuchiyama [eds.] (2007) Japan in international politics: the foreign policies of an adaptive state, Lynne Rienner
  • Dent, Christopher M. [Ed.] (2008) China, Japan and regional leadership in East Asia Edward Elgar
  • Drifte, Reinhard (2002) Japan's Security Relations with China since 1989: From Balancing to Bandwagoning? Routledge
  • Emmott, Bill (2008) Rivals: How the Power Struggle between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade, Harcourt
  • Hunt, Michael H. (1996) The Genesis of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy, Columbia University Press
  • Iechika, Ryoko (2003) Nittchu Kankei no Kihon Kozo: Futatsu no Mondaiten/Kokonotsu no Kettei Jiko [The Fundamental Structure of Sino-Japanese Relations: Two problems, nine decision matters], Koyo Shobo
  • Iriye, Akira (1992) China and Japan in the global setting, Harvard University Press
  • Jian, Sanqiang (1996) Foreign Policy Restructuring as Adaptive Behavior: China’s Independent Foreign Policy 1982-1989, University Press of America
  • Jin, Xide (2004) 21 Seiki no Nittchu Kankei [Sino-Japanese Relations of the 21st Century], Nihon Chohosha
  • Kawashima, Shin [Ed.] (2007) Chugoku no Gaiko: Jiko Ninshiki to Kadai [Chinese diplomacy: Self-awareness and problems], Yamakawa Shuppansha
  • Kawashima, Yutaka (2003) Japanese Foreign Policy at the Crossroads: Challenges and Options for the Twenty-First Century, Brookings Institution Press
  • Ogata, Sadako (1988) Normalization with China: A Comparative Study of U.S. and Japanese Processes, University of California
  • Rose, Caroline (1998) Interpreting history in Sino-Japanese relations: a case study in political decision making, Routledge
  • Rose, Caroline (2005) Sino-Japanese Relations: Facing the Past, Looking to the Future? Routledge
  • Söderberg, Marie (2002) Chinese-Japanese Relations in the Twenty-first Century: Complementarity and Conflict, Routledge
  • Stegewerns, Dick [Ed.] (2003) Nationalism and Internationalism in Imperial Japan, Routledge
  • Verschuer, Charlotte von. Kristen Lee Hunter (trans) (2006) " Across the Perilous Sea: Japanese Trade with China and Korea from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Centuries", Cornell University East Asia Program
  • Vogel, Ezra F., Yuan Ming & Tanaka Akihiko [eds.] (2003) The Golden Age of the US-China-Japan Triangle, 1972-1989’, Harvard University Press
  • Wan, Ming (2006) Sino-Japanese Relations: Interaction, Logic, and Transformation, Stanford University Press
  • Whiting, Allen S. (1989) China Eyes Japan, University of California Press
  • Yabuki, Susumu (1988) Posuto Toshohei [After Deng Xiaoping], Sososha
  • Zhao, Quansheng (1996) Japanese Policymaking: the Politics behind Politics: Informal Mechanisms & the Making of China Policy, [New Ed.] Oxford University Press

External links

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