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Getting to Know Ching-kuo: Chiang Ching-kuo’s 1967 Visit to Japan and Cold War Japan-Taiwan Relations

Robert Hoppens

When Chiang Ching-kuo visited Japan in late 1967, it was clear that he was being groomed to succeed his father. For the Japanese leadership, getting to know Ching-kuo was of vital importance.

Chiang Ching-kuo at the White House, September 23, 1965
Chiang Ching-kuo visits the White House for a meeting with US President Lyndon Johnson on September 23, 1965.

The role of Taiwan in the Cold War is a relatively understudied topic in the English-language historiography of the Cold War. Most studies of Cold War Taiwan focus on the US-Taiwan relationship and the cross-strait relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Cold War Japan-Taiwan relations have received much less attention, with Taiwan usually treated as an issue in historical studies of Japan-China relations. This despite the wealth of studies of Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan and increasing interest in the contemporary Japan-Taiwan relationship. Based on documents from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Diplomatic Archive, this article will use Chiang Ching-kuo’s first official visit to Japan in 1967 to explore some of the key issues in the history of Cold War Japan-Taiwan relations. 

Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo), the son of and eventual successor to Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) as leader of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, first visited Japan in late November and early December 1967 in his official capacity as ROC defense minister. By this point, however, it was clear to leaders in Japan and elsewhere that Ching-kuo was being groomed to succeed his father and held a leading position in the ROC power structure that belied his formal title. Therefore, getting to know Ching-kuo, understanding his personal background and ideological proclivities, was increasingly important for the Japanese political establishment. In addition, Japanese leaders were interested in introducing the future leader of the ROC to Japan to better help him understand the country. 


 By the time of Ching-kuo’s Japan visit, his father Chiang Kai-shek had long been a political leader of world renown. He was recognized as one of the major allies during the Second World War and was the ruler of “free China” on Taiwan in the Cold War. Soong Mei-ling (Song Meiling), Chiang Kai-shek’s US-educated wife and Ching-kuo’s stepmother, was a world figure in her own right who often acted as the face of Chiang’s China in the West. In contrast, Chiang Ching-kuo remained somewhat of an enigma to most outside the ROC ruling circle.

What was known about Chiang Ching-kuo tended only to add to international uncertainty about this future leader of the ROC. Chiang Ching-kuo was born in 1910 at the Chiang family home in Xikou, Zhejiang province.[1] He received a traditional education before traveling for further schooling to Shanghai and Beijing where he became interested in socialism and communism. In 1925 during the first United Front, a period of cooperation between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Ching-kuo traveled to the Soviet Union as a student. In Moscow he studied at Sun Yat-sen University with many other Chinese students, including Deng Xiaoping who would eventually succeed Mao Zedong as the leader of the PRC, much as Ching-kuo would succeed his father as ruler of the ROC.[2] Following Chiang Kai-shek’s break with the CCP in 1927 however, Ching-kuo became a virtual hostage in the Soviet Union for the next decade. Caught up in Soviet ideological and factional politics, Chiang was exiled from Moscow, eventually landing at the Ural Heavy Machinery Factory (Uralmash) in Sverdlovsk. It was at Uralmash in 1935 that Ching-kuo married a coworker, Faina Ipat’eva Vakreva (Chiang Fangliang), born in 1916 in Belarus to a family that emigrated to Yekaterinburg. Only in 1937, when the war with Japan encouraged a reproachment between Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek, was Ching-kuo able to return to China, accompanied by his wife and their first son Hsiao-wen (Alan, b. 1935).[3]

Back in China, Ching-kuo worked to reintegrate into Chinese society and rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his father, whom he had publicly criticized while in the Soviet Union. This included an intensive review of the Chinese classics and the works of Sun Yat-sen, calligraphy lessons, and the composition of a critical account of his time in the Soviet Union (which he wrote in Russian and then translated into Chinese). During the war with Japan, Ching-kuo became an important KMT figure in his own right, making a name for himself as a progressive, reformist official in the administration of Gan’nan, an old Communist stronghold in southern Jiangxi Province. During the Chinese Civil War, Ching-kuo served in the Northeast and, more controversially, was responsible for implementing eleventh-hour currency and economic reforms in Shanghai. After defeat and retreat to Taiwan in 1949, Chiang Ching-kuo emerged as his father’s most trusted advisor in establishing his regime in Taiwan. In this role, Ching-kuo came to serve in numerous important party, military and government posts including, in addition to minister of defense, Secretary of the Political Action Committee responsible for coordinating ROC intelligence services, member of the KMT Central Reform Committee in charge of reforming the KMT to make it more loyal to Chiang Kai-shek, deputy director of the National Security Bureau, director of the Political Warfare Cadres School (Fu Hsing Kang College), director of the China Youth League, chairman of the Council for International Economic Cooperation,  deputy premier, premier, and in 1978 president of the ROC. Through these formal positions and his personal networks and influence, Ching-kuo was intimately involved in the political, military and intelligence operations at the heart of KMT authoritarianism and the White Terror in Taiwan.[4]

As the Cold War developed, Chiang Ching-kuo’s past – his Soviet experience, his marriage, and his role in implementing the White Terror in Taiwan – were all cause for concern to outside observers, not least in the United States. Ching-kuo was first invited to visit the US in 1953 precisely so the American leadership could acquaint themselves with Ching-kuo and to expose him to what they thought would be the moderating virtues of American democracy. Ching-kuo, for his part, initially distrusted the Americans and resented their criticism of his role as architect of the ROC police state. Although Ching-kuo did not come away from his visit convinced that American democracy was suitable to Taiwan, this and subsequent visits did work to improve his image of the United States and Americans in general.[5] In the preparatory documents for Ching-kuo’s 1967 visit, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted this change in Ching-kuo’s attitudes toward the United States and it seems reasonable to think that the Japanese hoped for similar results from his Japan visit.

Chiang Ching-kuo and Japan 

If Chiang Ching-kuo’s personal background was cause for concern for the Americans, it was even more so for the Japanese. The United States, after all, had been a wartime ally of Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists and, despite tension and mistrust, remained the ROC’s main ally and benefactor in the Cold War. For the Japanese, building a Cold War relationship with Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists on Taiwan required more than shared anti-communist ideology. It also required reconciling bitter wartime enemies and the former colonizers and self-proclaimed liberators of Taiwan. 

This postwar reconciliation was facilitated by the construction of a shared historical narrative focused on the personal virtues of Chiang Kai-shek. Conservative politicians in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with the cooperation of Chiang Kai-shek and key Nationalist Party leaders, argued that Japanese had a moral obligation to support Chiang Kai-shek and the ROC on Taiwan because of Chiang’s generosity toward the Japanese at the war’s end. According to this moralized historical narrative, Chiang Kai-shek had adopted a policy of non-retribution toward Japanese soldiers and civilians in China at war’s end, allowing them to safely return to Japan. Chiang purportedly had also declined to participate in the military occupation of Japan, thereby precluding Soviet participation and sparing Japan the fate of Cold War division that had befallen Germany, Korea, and China itself.  Furthermore, in the 1952 peace treaty with Japan, Chiang had waived Chinese claims to war reparations. Finally, in his talks with wartime Allied leaders, Chiang had supposedly argued for the postwar preservation of the Japanese imperial system. Chiang’s postwar magnanimity amounted to a policy to “repay malice with virtue” (yide baoyuan). This four-character phrase and its associated historical narrative was repeated, whatever its veracity, in any discussion of Japanese China policy, becoming the basis for a virtual cult of personality around Chiang Kai-shek among Japanese conservatives.[6] 

Postwar reconciliation and Cold War partnership were also aided by Chiang Kai-shek’s deep prewar personal connections to Japan. Chiang had studied at a Japanese military academy (Tokyo Shinbu Gakkō) and had served in the Japanese Imperial Army before returning to China to participate in the 1911 revolution. As a protégé and eventual successor to Sun Yat-sen, who himself had spent years in Japan, Chiang also inherited Sun’s network of influential Japanese contacts.[7] Many Nationalist Party figures shared a similar history of contact with Japan, including Ho Ying-chin (He Yingqin) and Chang Chun (Zhang Qun) who became Chiang’s most important “Japan hands” in managing the Cold War relationship with Japan. Many in Japan’s postwar political class likewise had served in China and Taiwan before the war.

The Cold War Japan-Taiwan relationship thus was highly personalized. It was built upon personal connections between Japanese conservative politicians and Chiang Kai-shek, connections that often bypassed MOFA and the official diplomatic bureaucracy. It was legitimized by a moralized historical narrative centered on the person of Chiang Kai-shek. The highly personalized nature of the relationship, however, made the issue of succession potentially problematic.

Chiang Ching-kuo had never visited Japan and had none of his father’s personal connections to Japan. In fact, Ching-kuo’s personal history instilled in him a deep antipathy toward Japan. Ching-kuo’s mother, Mao Fumei, was killed in a Japanese bombing raid on Xikou in 1939. At the time of her death, Ching-kuo vowed to avenge his mother’s death, to “repay blood with blood” (yixue xixue).[8] This four-character vow is today engraved on a stone monument at the Chiang family ancestral home and stands in stark contrast to Chiang Kai-shek’s revered mantra to "repay malice with virtue.” Moreover, as Lin Hsiao-ting’s recent work based on Chiang Ching-kuo’s diaries makes clear, Ching-kuo’s anti-Japanese sentiments survived the end of the war and his father’s reconciliation with the Japanese. Indeed, so deep was his resentment that Ching-kuo even tried to avoid transiting through Tokyo when traveling internationally. His diaries record his unease and unfavorable impressions of the country when forced to spend a night in transit in Tokyo during a visit to the United States.[9] Thus for the Japanese, added to the suspicions provoked by his long experience in the Soviet Union, was the likelihood that Ching-kuo would be much less favorably disposed to the Japanese than his father. 

Getting to Know Ching-kuo

In preparation for Chiang Ching-kuo’s visit, MOFA prepared a short biography dated November 1, 1967. After a short resume of the major events of Ching-kuo’s life, the document turned to an analysis of his character. The report noted that, despite his small stature, he was an energetic and shrewd politician who had extended his influence into every important ROC institution and was likely to advance from his current position as minister of defense, to the premiership and eventually succeed his father as president of the ROC. The report also noted that in preparation for his more visible role in the ROC government, Ching-kuo was working hard to a foster a softer public image of a “lovable Chiang Ching-kuo” and was making concerted efforts to cultivate the native Taiwanese (benshengren) population. 

The MOFA report devotes considerable time to Chiang Ching-kuo’s Soviet experience and relations with the United States. MOFA notes that during his time in the Soviet Union, because of his political value Ching-kuo had been singled out for special training not only in Marxist ideology but in the Soviet military. Having experienced the purges of the 1930s, however, it was said that he became disillusioned with Soviet communism. Despite this disillusionment, however, Ching-kuo was not attracted to American-style liberalism and that there were concerns about his possible anti-American sentiments. The report concluded, however, that such doubts had largely been laid to rest as Ching-kuo became more familiar with the United States. The report noted that Ching-kuo had visited the United States three times since 1965 and had gradually come to display a more pro-American attitude. The Americans, too, had increasingly come to treat Ching-kuo as the future leader of the ROC. 

As mentioned, it is tempting to interpret this analysis of Ching-kuo’s changing attitude toward the United States as a blueprint for effecting a similar improvement in Chiang’s sentiments toward Japan by inviting Chiang to visit Japan. Interestingly, however, the MOFA document contains no analysis of Chiang’s attitudes toward Japan. It makes no mention of the death of Ching-kuo’s mother at the hands of the Japanese nor is there any speculation regarding the anti-Japanese feelings this might engender.

The Visit: November 27-December 2, 1967

Chiang Ching-kuo visited Japan as ROC minister of defense from November 27 to December 2, 1967. After the visit, MOFA prepared a detailed report analyzing the visit, dated December 19, 1967. Rather than a state guest, Chiang was received as an official guest, a slightly less formal treatment intended to avoid provoking opposition to the visit, both domestically and from the PRC. The Ministry’s report, however, makes clear that the Japanese political world, both in the ruling LDP and in the opposition parties, recognized Ching-kuo as a probable future head of state and treated him accordingly. 

In recounting the preparations and justification for Ching-kuo’s visit, the MOFA report noted that Ching-kuo’s title, minister of defense, belied the fact that since the death of Chen Cheng in March 1965, he had been consolidating real power over the party, state and military and was increasingly seen both at home and abroad as the second most powerful person in the ROC government. As Ching-kuo was increasingly bearing responsibility for ROC policy, there were calls to invite him to Japan and an official invitation to visit Japan was extended by Prime Minister Satō Eisaku during his visit to Taiwan in September 1967.

Chiang Ching-kuo and his delegation arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on November 27. The mission was greeted at the airport by a Japanese delegation headed by Foreign Minister Miki Takeo and Chief Cabinet Secretary Kimura Toshio and received a military salute from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Chiang made a brief statement at the airport, striking a strident tone condemning the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, then in full swing on the mainland, and restating the ROC commitment to retaking the mainland. That afternoon, Chiang met with Prime Minister Satō and Foreign Minister Miki and then attended a dinner hosted by Miki. 

On the 28th, Ching-kuo met with members of the Japanese Diet, led by Speaker of the House of Councillors Shigemune Yūzō and Speaker of the House of Representatives Ishii Mitsujirō. Ishii was a prominent leader of the pro-Taiwan faction of the LDP and founder of the Japan-ROC Cooperation Committee (Nikka kyōryoku iinkai) in 1957. This was the most important organization promoting relations with the ROC, bringing together many powerful LDP politicians and leading KMT figures for semi-annual conferences. The organization was also instrumental in forging the personal relationship with Chiang Kai-shek and promulgating the “repaying malice with virtue” narrative of Japan-Taiwan relations.[10] Ching-kuo then visited the Japanese Self-Defense Agency and met with Self-Defense Agency Director General Masuda Kaneshichi. Later that afternoon, Ching-kuo paid a visit to the imperial palace to meet with the Japanese emperor. Over tea, Ching-kuo presented the emperor with gifts and a personal letter from Chiang Kai-shek.  

Activities on November 29th focused on a series of economic visits. Ching-kuo visited the Nissan Motors Oppama plant and the Toshiba transistor factory in Kawasaki. He then attended a lunch hosted by the ROC-affiliated General Assembly of Overseas Chinese in Japan. That afternoon he held a press conference at the state guesthouse before attending a reception with Japanese business leaders at the headquarters of Keidanren, Japan's most powerful business organization. 

On the morning of November 30, Ching-kuo visited Japan's national broadcaster, NHK, and the Asahi newspaper company. That afternoon he paid a visit to the Meiji shrine, a large shrine in central Tokyo dedicated to Japan’s first modern emperor. He then visited Aoyama Cemetery where he placed flowers on the grave of former Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru. Yoshida as prime minister had signed the 1952 peace treaty ending the war and recognizing the ROC on Taiwan as the legal government of China, and had died on October 20, just a month before Chiang’s visit. He also visited the graves of Inukai Tsuoyshi, a prewar prime minister (1931-1932), and Tōyama Mitsuru, a prewar pan-Asianist and founder of the nationalist organizations Genyōsha and Kokuryūkai. Both were old Japanese comrades of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek. That evening he attended a reception at the ROC embassy with ROC Ambassador Chen Chi-mai (Chen Zhimai) and Prime Minster Satō followed by a private dinner with Ambassador Chen.

On December 1, Chiang visited Kyoto where he was subjected to a Japanese soft-power full court press. Original plans to travel by shinkansen bullet train, the symbol of postwar Japan’s economic miracle, were changed so that Chiang flew aboard a Self-Defense Forces plane. Upon his arrival, he visited the Kyoto imperial palace, where, according to the Foreign Ministry report, he was especially interested in the images of Chinese sages like Zhuge Liang and Jiang Ziya in the murals of the Shinshinden. He also visited the Nijōjō castle, where he participated in a tea ceremony and listened to a koto performance before visiting the famous stone garden at the Ryōanji temple. The MOFA account suggests that the highlight of the Kyoto visit might have been the lunch of Matsusaka beef sukiyaki which seemed to be especially well received. Ching-kuo departed for Taipei from Osaka, after a visit to Osaka castle, on December 2. 

Reception and Opposition to the Visit

MOFA paid close attention to the reception of and opposition to Chiang’s visit. Opposition to the visit was anticipated not only from the PRC but also from the Japanese left and those who favored closer relations with Mainland China, including some in the conservative camp. In the run-up to the visit, the MOFA received statements and petitions in opposition to the visit, two of which are included in this collection. 

One of these statements was a letter from Nakajima Kenzō, head of the Japan-China Cultural Exchange Association. The Japan-China Cultural Exchange Association was, along with the Japan-China Friendship Association, one of the most important organizations promoting closer relations between Japan and the PRC. Unlike the Japan-China Friendship Association, which was closely associated with the main opposition parties, the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) and Japan Communist Party (JCP), Nakajima and the Japan-China Cultural Exchange Association sought to cultivate a less ideological and less partisan image that could draw a wider array of Japanese intellectual and cultural figures into the movement to improve relations with the mainland.[11] Despite his commitment to “no party, no faction” inclusiveness, Nakajima’s opposition to Chiang’s visit was unsparing in its criticism of Japan’s China policy and fully supportive of PRC positions on the Taiwan issue.

Nakajima argued that hosting Chiang Ching-kuo, head of the defeated Chiang Kai-shek clique and ringleader of the White Terror on Taiwan, constituted interference in China’s domestic politics, made an enemy of the Chinese people, and would destroy the friendship that Nakajima and the Japanese people had worked so hard to establish after the war. Behind Chiang’s visit, Nakajima saw the hand of American imperialism. Chiang’s visit, he claimed, was part of a plot on the part of the “running dog” Chiang Kai-shek clique to use the American imperialist presence on Taiwan for their own preservation. Prime Minister Satō’s invitation to Chiang, like his visits to South Korea, Taiwan and South Vietnam, thus made his government complicit in American imperialism in Asia, essentially putting Satō on the wrong side of history. All over the world, Nakajima claimed, oppressed peoples were resisting American imperialist aggression. The Japanese people’s opposition to Chiang’s visit, therefore, was part of the world anti-imperialist movement. Nakajima further charged that Satō’s militarist and fascist policy had already resulted in one death. On October 8, 1967, protesters turned out at Haneda Airport in a failed attempt to stop Satō’s departure on a trip to Southeast Asia. In skirmishes after the departure a protesting student, Yamazaki Hiroaki, was killed.[12] Nakajima’s opposition to Chiang’s visit fit into a leftist Japanese nationalist narrative that equated opposition to the US-Japan alliance and support for the PRC with the Japanese nation’s historical role as a participant in anti-imperialist national liberation movements.[13]

Another petition opposed to Chiang’s visit came from the Japan-China Import-Export Association headed by Kawase Ikkan, chairman of Tōkō bussan, a rubber and textile firm. As might be expected from a businessman heading an organization established in 1955 with the support of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to promote trade with mainland China, Kawase’s criticism was considerably more measured than Nakajima’s.[14] Rather than condemning American imperialism, Kawase focused on the practical problems Ching-kuo’s visit posed to Japan’s trade with China. 

Trade with the PRC had completely broken down in 1958 as a result of the Nagasaki flag incident, in which right-wing Japanese tore down a PRC flag at a trade show in Nagasaki.[15] Trade had only recently been reestablished, an accomplishment that had required considerable effort according to Kawase. Since 1962, trade with the mainland had been conducted under what came to be called the LT Trade, so named for a semiofficial trade agreement signed by Liao Chengzhi and Takasaki Tastunosuke.[16] Kawase argued that Chiang’s visit threatened to undo these accomplishments. Kawase maintained that the Taiwan issue was the main obstacle to the expansion of trade with China. Kawase specifically cited the problem of the Yoshida Letter as an example. The Yoshida Letter referred to a 1964 letter sent from former Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru to Chiang Kai-shek intended to quell ROC discontent with Japan’s expanding trade with the mainland. In his letter Yoshida assured Chiang that trade with the mainland would not be financed with official Japanese government funds like Japan Export-Import Bank credits; a position that Prime Minister Satō, a “star pupil” of the Yoshida School of LDP politicians, was committed to uphold. While not endorsing the PRC claim to Taiwan, Kawase pointed out that for the PRC leadership, Taiwan was inherent Chinese territory, and the liberation of Taiwan was an article of unshakable faith for the Chinese people. Inviting Chiang Ching-kuo to Japan, therefore, could only serve to increase Chinese wariness and distrust of Japan. For the sake of Sino-Japanese trade, as well as mutual trust and friendship, Kawase asked the Japanese government to rescind the invitation to Chiang.

The main organized opposition during Chiang’s visit came from the Japanese left. On November 15, about 160 representatives of various organizations, including the JSP, the Sōhyō labor union, and the China-Japan Friendship Association (Orthodox Headquarters), organized a Liaison Conference to Oppose Chiang Ching-kuo’s Visit to Japan and on November 22 issued a “Joint Statement in Opposition to Chiang Ching-kuo’s Visit to Japan.” On November 25, about one thousand representatives of various leftist groups held a convention in Tokyo attended by Gan Wenfang, chairman of the CCP-affiliated Tokyo General Assembly of Overseas Chinese, and later led a demonstration in front of the prime minister's residence. On November 27, the day of Ching-kuo’s arrival, about 300 protesters gathered at Haneda airport raising placards and chants opposed to his visit. When Ching-kuo visited Kyoto on December 1, there were some protesters at the sites he visited, some of whom sang “The East is Red,” and some rocks were thrown at his car, causing no damage. The MOFA assessment concluded that, in the end, other than some scuffles with police there were no major incidents during the visit and opposition was not as extreme or violent as had been feared.

Advocates of Taiwan independence were another source of organized opposition to Chiang’s visit. The activities of the Taiwan independence movement reveal an important characteristic of the Cold War Japan-Taiwan relationship, what some scholars have referred to as the bifurcated or two-layered nature of Japan’s relations with the ROC government on the one hand and the people of Taiwan on the other.[17] The opposition of Taiwan independence activists challenged the assumptions of both Japanese conservatives and their leftist opponents that support for either Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, or the Chinese Communists on the mainland equated to support for the freedom and liberation of the Taiwanese people. 

Japan, like the United States, served as a haven for Taiwan independence activists fleeing KMT repression. Prominent independence activists in Japan included: Thomas Liao (Liao Wenyi), founder of the Formosan League for Re-emancipation and president of the Provisional Government of Taiwan; Ong Iok-tek (Wang Yude), founder of the Formosan Youth League and its journal Formosan Youth (Taiwan Seinen); and the socialist Su Beng (Shi Ming), author of the influential Taiwan’s Four Hundred Year History, first published in Japanese in 1962 and long banned in Taiwan.[18] Though these activists found little official support in Japan, their activities were an irritant in relations with the ROC. For their part, Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT allowed Okinawan independence activists like Kiyuna Tsugumasa (Cai Zhang) and his Ryukyu Revolutionary Comrades Association to operate in Taiwan.[19] The ROC government put pressure on the Japanese to arrest and deport independence activists. In 1967, two independence activists were arrested to be deported for overstaying their student visas. They were released in early September 1967, just months before Ching-kuo’s visit, only after a hunger strike and protests from Japanese and American allies.[20] Independence activists in Japan were also targets of KMT surveillance and intimidation and subject to arrest if they returned to Taiwan. In 1965, two years before Ching-kuo’s visit, the ROC government succeeded in inducing Thomas Liao to renounce Taiwanese independence and return to Taiwan in exchange for a pardon and a provincial government sinecure.[21]

Taiwan independence activists in Japan organized to protest Chiang’s visit. The Formosan Youth Independence League, or Taidokuren, formed from Ong Iok-tek’s Formosan Youth League, successfully applied for permission to hold demonstrations in front of the ROC embassy in Tokyo. Protests were held on November 24 and 28. On November 28, about 120 protesters and six sound trucks raised placards and chants calling for “freedom for Taiwan.” In response to Chinese embassy requests, security was tight, but demonstrations were orderly and there were no confrontations with police or Chinese embassy staff.

Of course, not everyone in Japan was opposed to Ching-kuo’s visit. Conservatives and rightists organized to welcome him to Japan. One of those most active in organizing to welcome Ching-kuo to Japan was Tamaki Kazuo. Tamaki at the time was a young LDP member of the House of Councillors who went on to a long career in Japanese politics. Tamaki was a stalwart of the LDP right wing, a consistent supporter of pro-Taiwan political positions, and in the 1970s became an important member of the Seirankai, an organization of young, right-wing Diet members critical of the LDP mainstream. Tamaki also served as the leader of the political organization of the Seichō no Ie, a Japanese “new religion” active in conservative political causes with close ties to the LDP. In preparation for Chiang’s visit Tamaki mobilized the Seichō no Ie organization and contacts in Taiwan to drum up support for the visit, often against the wishes of MOFA and the Japanese embassy in Taipei. 

Tamaki visited Taiwan twice in preparation for Chiang’s visit, in late September and early November 1967. During his visits Tamaki met with high-ranking KMT figures including Lee Huan (Li Huan), Chen Chien-chung (Chen Jianzhong) and Hsu Ching-chung (Xu Qingzhong) to pitch his idea for large public rallies to welcome Ching-kuo to Japan. Japanese embassy officials in Taipei paid close attention to Tamaki’s activities, worked to sound out the ROC government’s response to his proposals and reported them to Tokyo. ROC officials, including James Wei (Wei Jingmeng), head of the ROC Government Information Office, explained that Ching-kuo was of “shy” and “serious” temperament and looked to avoid the public eye, preferring instead to devote his energies to learning about Japan during his trip. Embassy officials eventually concluded that Tamaki’s push for greater publicity for Chiang’s trip was mostly a domestic political stunt that had little support in ROC leadership circles. 

The Embassy, for their part, favored much more circumspection and caution in hosting Ching-kuo in Japan. Embassy officials were aware of the likelihood of opposition demonstrations and further assumed that the PRC would respond negatively to the visit, possibly including holding up LT Trade talks, just as Kawase had warned. On the other hand, it was felt that the likely response would not be too “drastic,” and that all efforts should be made to avoid giving the PRC an excuse to cause trouble. Even at the height of the Cultural Revolution, MOFA was committed to the “separation of politics and economics” and maintaining trade relations with the PRC. In their report on the Cultural Revolution and Japan’s China policy prepared for Satō’s meeting with Chiang Ching-kuo, MOFA suggested that “leaving the window open” to the PRC was important for exposing the PRC to the outside world and that PRC interest in LT Trade negotiations could be an indicator of a potential return to normalcy in PRC diplomacy. Therefore, Embassy opinion was that Tamaki’s “reckless” proposals should be excluded from the official itinerary. It was also important for MOFA to make it clear to the public that the goal of inviting Ching-kuo to Japan was to help the future leader of the ROC deepen his understanding of Japanese politics and foreign policy and to avoid the impression that the Japanese government was simply following ROC foreign policy.

Undaunted, on November 23rd the Seichō no Ie and other groups hosted a citizens’ assembly at Tokyo's Kokugikan sumo stadium to welcome Ching-kuo to Japan. The meeting was attended by Japanese conservative politicians including Tamaki, Speaker of the House of Councilors Shigemune and ROC embassy staff. About 300 Seichō no Ie members also turned out to welcome Chiang at the Kyoto imperial palace on December 1st. MOFA also noted that on November 29 a representative of Akao Bin’s right-wing party, Dai Nippon Aikokutō, delivered a petition addressed to Ching-kuo at the ROC embassy (the contents of which are not included in the Ministry’s report). As in its assessment of leftist opposition to the visit, the Foreign Ministry noted that, in the end, the rightists did not disrupt the visit by forcefully demanding to meet Chiang or engaging in violent clashes with leftist protestors.

Japan-Taiwan Economic Cooperation

As Ching-kuo’s factory visits and Keidanren reception make clear, trade and economic cooperation were an important part of the Japan-Taiwan relationship and in Ching-kuo’s meeting with Prime Minister Satō there was real business to discuss. In addition to the analysis of Japan’s current policy toward the PRC, MOFA also prepared information and talking points on Japan’s economic cooperation with the ROC. 

The Japanese and Taiwanese economies had been closely integrated in the Japanese colonial period before being severed by the end of the war. Bilateral trade relations were quickly rebuilt in the 1950s. Economic cooperation, or government-funded aid, investment and technological exchange, only developed later. The first economic cooperation agreement was concluded in April 1965. Under this agreement, the Japanese government extended an official loan package of US$ 150 million over five years from the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) and the Japan Export Import Bank. The loans would fund a series of 18 infrastructure and industrial projects including the construction of a second port at Kaohsiung, the Tsengwen Dam, and an integrated steel mill, improvement of bridges and ports, expansion and modernization of shipbuilding, sugar, fertilizer and aluminum production facilities.[22]

The timing of the agreement is important in several respects. In 1965, the world was just beginning to recognize what would come to be called the postwar Japanese “economic miracle.” Tokyo hosted the summer Olympics in 1964. Japan was becoming an aid donor rather than a recipient of international economic aid. Japanese politicians and bureaucrats were beginning to develop ideas of economic cooperation, aid, trade and investment as an important part of a non-military and distinctly Japanese foreign policy that would characterize Japan’s foreign relations for the rest of the Cold War. At the same time, the postwar Japanese economic experience was becoming a model for other East Asian economies, including the “four dragons” of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.[23] 

 In the specific case of Taiwan, Japanese economic cooperation began just as American aid to the ROC was declining. Economic cooperation was also politically important as a means to mollify ROC dissatisfaction with expanding Japanese trade with the mainland.[24] Despite the limits of the Cold War, postwar Japanese business leaders and politicians across the political spectrum were loath to abandon the opportunities of the China market and worked to expand trade with the mainland. Through the 1950s and 1960s they worked to expand trade relations with both Chinese regimes through the “separation of politics and economics” (seikei bunri). In 1963, however, the Kurashiki Rayon company concluded an agreement with Beijing for the export of a vinylon plant financed by credit from the Japanese Export-Import Bank. The ROC responded by recalling its ambassador to Tokyo, prompting a visit to Taipei by former Prime Minister Yoshida and the issuing of the “Yoshida letter” mentioned earlier, in which the Japanese promised not to use government credit to fund trade with the PRC. Expanded economic cooperation with Taiwan was another way to smooth things over with the ROC leadership. 

The issue during Ching-kuo’s 1967 Tokyo visit was that ROC government was contemplating a new loan request for some US$ 300 million. Though Prime Minister Satō was reportedly receptive to the request, MOFA was more circumspect.[25] In preparation for his meeting with Ching-kuo, the Ministry prepared talking points for Satō to use in tactfully refusing such a request. MOFA urged Satō to point out that only about 20% of the funds under the first loan agreement had actually been spent, so it was too early to talk about a second loan package. MOFA also pointed out to Satō that there appeared to be disagreement within the ROC government about economic plans, especially plans for the construction of an integrated steel mill. MOFA counseled Satō to avoid getting involved in ROC domestic politics and to wait for the dust to settle before responding to a request for a new loan. Negotiations for a second loan package eventually began in 1970 and a second agreement to fund three industrial projects was signed in August 1971. In September 1972, however, Japan normalized relations with the PRC and the ROC severed diplomatic relations with Japan. Ching-kuo also abandoned further official economic cooperation projects.[26] Foreign capital for Ching-kuo’s vaunted Ten Major Construction Projects of the 1970s came mostly from the United States and other Western countries.[27] The separation of “politics and economics” was now reversed. Economic relations with the ROC on Taiwan would henceforth be carried out on a private, nongovernmental basis while in 1978, Japan would begin an official economic aid program to the PRC. 


Overall, the Foreign Ministry’s assessment portrays the visit as a success in deepening mutual understanding. Chiang Kai-shek reportedly was very pleased with the success of Ching-kuo’s visit. The ROC media also reported the visit as a great success and attributed the success of the visit to the Japanese people’s gratitude toward Chiang Kai-shek for his generous spirit of “repaying malice with virtue,” Chiang Ching-kuo’s important position at the center of ROC politics and Ching-kuo’s friendly character. In his comments to reporters on his return to Taipei, Ching-kuo expressed his thanks for the warm reception he received in Japan and Lee Huan let the Embassy in Taipei know that Ching-kuo had gained a new understanding of Japan and was extremely satisfied with his visit.

Did the visit succeed in improving Ching-kuo’s feelings toward Japan? Tamaki Kazuo later explained that he had been motivated in his efforts to organize the welcome for Ching-kuo to Japan because he had heard about his antipathy toward Japan as a result of his mother’s death and felt that improving Ching-kuo’s feelings toward Japan was vital to Japan-ROC relations and to regional peace and prosperity. Tamaki credited the visit and the warm welcome Ching-kuo received in Japan with improving his image of Japan to the extent that, by the time of Chiang Kai-shek’s death in 1975, Ching-kuo was as friendly to the Japanese as his father had been.[28] Ching-kuo’s diary, however, suggests that on this count the visit may have been less successful than the Foreign Ministry or Tamaki might have hoped. Lin notes that on his return to Taipei, Ching-kuo wrote in his diary that during his to the Japanese Self-Defense Agency he thought painfully of his mother’s death and felt “ashamed to face my mother’s spirit.”[29]

Whatever his personal feelings, in relations with Japan, just as in relations with the United States, Chiang Ching-kuo, like his father, was able to put them aside in the pragmatic pursuit of ROC interests.[30] As Ching-kuo recorded in his diary, it was only the pursuit of state interests that enabled him to put aside his feelings and successfully carry out his visit.[31] In the end, despite the upheaval caused by the normalization of Japan-PRC relations in 1972 and the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1975 stable, albeit unofficial, Japan-Taiwan relations prevailed under Chiang Ching-kuo’s leadership in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Chiang Ching-kuo’s 1967 visit to Japan, of course, is just one incident in the history of Cold War Japan-Taiwan relations and the documents introduced here just a small sample of the evidence available in Japanese archives, to say nothing of the resources available to historians in Taiwan. But consideration of this incident might at least suggest some important themes and subjects for future research in the history of Cold War Japan-Taiwan relations. These might include, in addition to geopolitics, issues of individual personality, and emotion; the activities of Taiwanese independence activists in Japan; the history of decolonization in Japan-Taiwan relations; the issue of historical reconciliation during the Cold War; the history of Japan-Taiwan economic cooperation; as well as issues not touched on here including cultural and interpersonal exchange and tourism. Cold War Japan-Taiwan relations is a rich topic that deserves and will reward the attention of historians.

Associated Documents

Cable No. 643, Ambassador Shimazu (Taipei) to the Foreign Minister, 'Visit of Defense Minister Chiang Ching-kuo,’ 18 October 1967
The Japanese Ambassador in Taipei reports on meetings between Diet Member Tamaki Kazuo and Lee Huan and another between an embassy staffer and Wei Ching-meng (James Wei) about an impending visit to Japan by Chiang Ching-kuo.

Brief Personal History and Character of Chiang Ching-kuo, 1 November 1967
A brief chronology and biography of Chiang Ching-kuo, prepared by the Japanese Foreign Ministry ahead of a visit by Chiang to Japan in late 1967.

Cable No. 699, Ambassador Shimazu (Taipei) to the Foreign Minister, 'Diet Member Tamaki’s Visit to Taiwan,’ 17 November 1967
The Japanese Embassy in Taipei reports on meetings held by Diet Member Tamaki concerning a visit to Japan by Chiang Ching-kuo.

Cable No. 705, Ambassador Shimazu (Taipei) to the Foreign Minister, 'Visit of Chiang Ching-kuo to Japan,’ 21 November 1967
The Japanese Ambassador in Taipei warns that Chiang Ching-kuo's upcoming visit to Japan could trigger a "serious incident" with China if the visit is not well thought out in advance.

Minister of National Defense Chiang’s Visit to Japan, 19 December 1967
The Japanese Foreign Ministry summarizes Chiang Ching-kuo's recent visit to Japan: who Chiang met with and what he discussed during his meetings; where Chiang travelled and his activities; and the responses, both domestic and foreign, to Chiang's visit.

Statement of Nakajima Kenzo, Chairman of the Board, Opposing the Visit of Prime Minister Sato to the United States and Protesting the Coming to Japan of Chiang Ching-kuo, November 1967
Nakajima Kenzo, a leading figure in the Japan China Cultural Exchange Association, denounces the impending visit of Chiang Ching-kuo to Japan.

Petition on Opposition to the Coming to Japan of Taiwan’s National Defense Minister Chiang, 6 November 1967
Kawase Ikkan insists that the Japanese Government must cancel the upcoming visit by Chiang Ching-kuo for the sake of the country's relations with Mainland China.

Asian Affairs Bureau [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan], 'The Chinese Communist Problem,’ 18 November 1967
Ahead of a visit by Chiang Ching-kuo to Japan, the Japanese Foreign Ministry reviews the political situation on Mainland China.

Economic Cooperation Division [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan], 'Main Points of Meeting Between Prime Minister Sato and National Defense Minister Chiang Ching-kuo,’ 24 November 1967
The Japanese Foreign Ministry provides an update on the state of Japan-Taiwan economic ties ahead of Chiang Ching-kuo's visit to Japan.


[1] For Chiang Ching-kuo’s biography see, Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo’s Son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the Revolutions in China and Taiwan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). 

[2] Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 23.

[3] On Chiang Ching-kuo and Chiang Fang-liang see, Mark O’Neill, China’s Russian Princess: The Silent Wife of Chiang Ching-kuo (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing. 2020).

[4] Taylor, The Generalissimo’s Son, 210-217.

[5] Taylor, The Generalissimo’s Son, 219-221; Lin Hsiao-ting, Jiang Jingguo de Taiwan shidai: Zhonghua minguo yu lengzhan xia de Taiwan [The Chiang Ching-kuo Era: The Republic of China on Taiwan in the Cold War] (Taibei: Yuanzu wenhua, 2021), 202-203.

[6] Chengyi Yuan, “The Re-examination of Chiang Kai-shek’s Returning Virtue for Malice Policy towards Japan after the Victory of the Anti-Japanese War,” Journal of Modern Chinese History. 7, no.1 (2013): 35-48. 

[7] Joji Kijima, “Japan-Republic of China relations under US hegemony: A genealogy of 'returning virtue for malice.'” PhD diss., SOAS University of London, 2005, 85-94.

[8] Taylor, The Generalissimo’s Son, 96-97.

[9] Hsiao-ting Lin, Jiang Jingguo de Taiwan shidai, 279-280.

[10] Ryosei Kokubun, Yoshihide Soeya, Akio Takahara and Shin Kawashima, Japan-China Relations in the Modern Era, trans. Keith Krulak (New York: Routledge, 2017), 52-53.


[11] Casper Wits, “Cultural Relations within Sino-Japanese ‘People’s Diplomacy’: Nakajima Kenzō and the Japan-China Cultural Exchange Association,” Sino-Japanese Studies 23: article 1 (2016). 

[12] Fintan Hoey, Sato, America and the Cold War: US-Japan Relations, 1964-1972 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 27. 

[13] Robert Hoppens, The China Problem in Postwar Japan: Japanese National Identity and Sino-Japanese Relations (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). 

[14] Kokubun et. al., Japan-China Relations in the Modern Era, 49.

[15] Amy King, China-Japan Relations after World War Two: Empire, Industry and War, 1949-1971 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 136-137. 

[16] King, China-Japan Relations after World War Two, 179-183. 

[17] Kawashima Shin, Shimizu Urara, Matsuda Yasuhiro and Philip Yang, Nittai Kankei shi [The History of Japan-Taiwan Relations] (Tokyo: Tokyo University Press, 2009), 13.

[18] Steven Phillips, “Building a Taiwanese Republic: The Independence Movement, 1945-Present,” in Dangerous Strait: The U.S.-Taiwan-China Crisis, ed. Nancy Bernkopf-Tucker (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 52-53.

[19] Kokubun et. al., Japan-China Relations in the Modern Era, 53.

[20] Douglas Mendel, The Politics of Formosan Nationalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), 159-160.

[21] Phillips, “Building a Taiwanese Republic,” 53.

[22] Hang Xu, “In Service of U.S. Cold War Strategy or an Independent Initiative? Japan’s Economic Cooperation with Taiwan (1962-1972),” The International History Review 45, no. 2 (2023), 337-356.

[23] Ezra F Vogel, The Four Little Dragons: The Spread of Industrialization in East Asia (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

[24]Xu, “In Service of U.S. Cold War Strategy,” 337-356. 

[25] Xu, “In Service of U.S. Cold War Strategy,” 337-356.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Kawashima et. al., Nittai Kankei shi, 122-123.

[28] Tamaki Kazuo, “Shō Keikoku inchō no namida ni miru Taiwan no ketsui,” [Taiwan’s Determination Seen in Premier Chiang Ching-kuo’s Tears] Shūkan sankei 24, no. 1289 (May 27, 1975), 98-99. The fact that Tamaki was well aware of this history makes its omission in the MOFA documents all the more curious.

[29]Lin, Jiang Jingguo de Taiwan shidai, 280.

[30] Hsiao-ting Lin, Taiwan, The United States, and the Hidden History of the Cold War in Asia: Divided Allies (New York: Routledge, 2022).

[31] Lin, Jiang Jingguo de Taiwan shidai, 280.

About the Author

Robert Hoppens

Robert Hoppens

Former Chun and Jane Chiu Family Foundation Taiwan Fellow;
Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
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