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Tang Jiaxuan and PRC's Foreign Policy Failure on the U.S. and Japan
by Jing Zhao

I did not know this name until June 1989, after the crackdown of China's democratic movement in Beijing.

In April, when I first organized Chinese students' open demonstration and collected signatures in Japan to support the democratic movement in China soon after Hu Yaobang's death, I had to pay attention to actions from Yang Zengya, PRC's Ambassador to Japan. It was widely known that Mr. Yang, belonging to Hu Yaobang's Communist Youth League faction, is a "reformist." He cried for Hu's death, and encouraged his staff come out to join our demonstrations. Many people also believed that the defection of a low level Embassy staff, Ms. Ma Qiuyun, was under his permission.

Mr. Yang indirectly sent two messages to us. First, the editor-general of the official Chinese student magazine in Tokyo area, Xin Dalu (New Continent), told me Mr. Yang asked him to publish our petition letter (written by me) and signatures. The official Chinese student magazine in Osaka area, Yan Ming, has been closed (*1), so I sent copies to Xin Dalu and they were published. Mr. Yang, as well as most of us, believed the "reformist" faction would win.

After Li Peng announced the Martial Law, the situation became severe and even a civil war became a possible consequence. A Chinese student in Kyoto University approached me and told he was sent by Mr. Yang with a possible consideration of an "exile government (branch)" in Japan (*2).

However, when Deng Xiaoping finally appeared in CCTV with his PLA generals, everyone knew the game was over. Mr. Yang avoided meeting Chinese students, and actually, he was called back to China later and was forced to retire. Instead, Tang Jiaxuan, the Minister of Chinese Embassy in Japan , showed up to handle this incident in Japan.

Basically, Tang Jiaxuan acted like a petty-Jiang Zeming or petty-Zhu Rongji. He claimed that the Chinese government will forgive us of our anti-government activities, and he has burnt all petitions and any other materials so every Chinese student can return safely. However, he also threatened: "I cannot protect you if you continue any anti-government activity from now on." He lied to the Japanese public that no Chinese student would punished because of his/her government demonstration/petition activity (*3).

To "calm down" Chinese students' democratic activity in Japan, he utilized PRC's "sovereignty" to collaborate with the Japanese government to persecute PRC citizens. The Japanese regime was more than happy to violate Chinese people's human rights. The Japanese regime first prepared a few carrots, for example, Kobe University provided an Associate Professor of Law position for that Chinese student in Kyoto University with a Master degree for the reward of his information of our movement and his activity to threaten, even to beat, Chinese students away from our movement. The Japanese media reported this as an evidence of Japanese government's action to "protect Chinese students" as stated in the 1989 France G7 Summit.

Tang Jiaxuan also pressed Rikkyo University not to issue a doctorial degree to a Chinese student representative even though his research on the CCP history (especially on Mao's seizing power in the famous Zunyi Meeting during the Long March) has been published in Chinese, Japanese and English. But when the Japanese regime learnt that he received a passport from Taiwan and was hired by Washintong Post as its Tokyo correspondent, Tang Jiaxuan could not do any harm to him. Actually, Mr. Bush, the President of the United States of America, also replied a letter to him, to encourage his activity in Tokyo.

It was easy for Tang Jiaxuan persecute any Chinese people who had no willing or could not receive protection from other foreign authorities in Japan. Not only the university at which I was studying, the polite Japanese secret police (Kokka koan iinkai) also approached me testing what kind of position I would accept. When the Japanese regime confirmed that I have no willing to make a deal with them, Osaka University began to prepare to expel me with the excuse of "unable to continue normal study" (*4). I had to sign a statement suspending my political activity as long as I stay in the university, which was prepared by my supervisor professor, in Japanese. Upon my graduation, even though I was the first to receive the Ph. D in Sociology in the department when all professors of the department had only Master degree, I couldn't find a research job in Japan. All Japanese institutes wants to maintain a "friendship" with the Beijing regime.

Since Tang Jiaxuan had notified the Japanese government that Chinese students were safe to return to China, the Japanese government utilized this reason to reject every Chinese student's application to stay in Japan with political reasons (*5). Tang Jiaxuan was confident that any Chinese involving political activity in Japan would not have a safe life because the two regimes signed a secret agreement that Japan will not accept any political refugee from China.

Thus it was not a surprise Tang Jiaxuan was promoted to Assistant Minister (1991) (then later to Vice Minister in 1993) of PRC's Foreign Affairs for his skill to collaborate with the Japanese government to persecute Chinese citizens in Japan. It was, however, for many watchers, a surprise that Jiang Zeming and Zhu Rongji promoted him to the Minister position in 1998.

Jiang Zeming's failure visit to Japan in 1998 explained why Jiang Zeming selected Tang Jiaxuan. To prepare Jiang's visit, the whole negotiation process went far off normal diplomatic practice. The Japanese side soon found that it was not Tang Jiaxuan, the Japan expert Minister, but Zeng Qinghong (CCP's Central Committee Office director, brought by Jiang from Shanghai) who was making the decision. Without even the power to handle Jiang's visit to Japan, Tang Jiaxuan certainly is not allowed to intervene the more important affairs such as Sino-American relations, the Taiwan problem, or Hong Kong affairs. What kind of job can he do as a Minister? The only thing to show that he was in charge is to send a defected North Korean official to South Korea. Jiang Zeming selected Tang Jiaxuan because Jiang wanted to show that he himself is the "Master" of PRC's foreign policy.

PRC's Japan policy has completely bankrupted, as indicated above, because the Jiang Zeming regime, especially the Foreign Affairs Department under Tang Jiaxuan, tries to maintain the "friendship" between the two regimes sacrificing Chinese people's human rights since more than one hundred years ago. Jiang Zeming, Zhu Rongji, and Tang Jiaxuan came to power due to their "skillful" handling of the Tiananmen Incident, but it was this incident that buried PRC's foreign policy foundation, and Japan is the best example: all Chinese political allies in Japan collapsed or turned away from China, only one tiny Japanese political force, the JCP, turned from CCP's enemy to a friend. Compared with twelve years' Japanese politics, who can be sure Japan will not engage against China with the U.S. for the Taiwan problem twelve years later?

It is also interesting to point out that since Tang Jiaxuan is not an American expert, he has to pretend to know the U.S. For example, as Jiang Zeming, he likes to use some English words to express PRC's foreign policy. Does not he really know that the "trouble maker" of the Taiwan problem is not Lee Teng-hui but the Pentagon? Until today, the Jiang Zeming regime still expects (wishes) the Bush Jr. will "learn" from his father or Mr. Clinton to change his tone/attitude toward China. Meanwhile, the new Bush administration even indicates that not only Seoul, but also Pyongyang and Beijing should be prepared to accept the idea of a U.S. military presence in Korea even after the unification. If Tang Jiaxuan's Foreign Affairs Department can give the Bush administration this kind of expectation, why the U.S. spy plans cannot fly around China's coast, why the U.S. cannot "defend" Taiwan?

History teaches us: a historical reactionary event in one place always brings about historical reactionary responses in other places. We stood up and changed the world, but the people in Western countries did not respond to us to change their political system. Rather than expecting any meaningful progress in PRC's foreign policy under the current Beijing regime, we see clearly in the future not only a decline of PRC's foreign policy, but the dangerous fate of the PRC regime itself. The bad news for Chinese people is: even if you don't care of the PRC regime, the dark triangle alliance of Washington-Tokyo-Taipei has been formed and their destination is to force the Beijing regime to give up the remainder of the Chinese Revolution which has not been sold out, including those millions of the Chinese people's lives who followed the CCP to conduct the greatest revolution in our human history.

The PRC foreign policy is in emergency.

*1. As the editor-general, I published a survey result of Chinese student political consciousness after the Fang Lizhi Incident in 1987. Refer to Cheng Min Monthly, January 1988, Hong Kong. Taiwan's Central Daily also reported this "biggest political mistake since Sino-Japanese relationship normalization in 1972" but I don't remember the date. I had to cancel my Europe trip because my passport was taken away.
*2. Wan Li, the head of China's People's Representative Conference (the so-called Chinese Congress), is visiting Canada and he is Zhao Ziyang's ally.
*3. After his statement, my scholarship was suspended (I was sent to Japan by the PRC Education Ministry).
*4. See my interview published in Asahi Daily, October 20, 1992.
*5. See Edward Friedman, ed. The Politics of Democratization: Generalizing East Asian Experiences. Transitions: Asia and Asian America Series. Boulder and Oxford: Westview Press, 1994.
*6. See, for example, Avery Goldstein: U.S. Policies Toward Asia, Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 17, 2001.

Copyright 2001 by CPRI, all rights reserved. CPRI permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and CPRI: US-Japan-China Comparative Policy Research Institute, San Jose, USA. For any other proposed use, contact email: