Soilborne pathogens can contribute to diversity maintenance in tree communities through the Janzen-Connell effect, whereby the pathogenic reduction of seedling performance attenuates with distance from conspecifics. By contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) have been reported to promote seedling performance; however, it is unknown whether this is also distance dependent. Here, we investigate the distance dependence of seedling performance in the presence of both pathogens and AMF. In a subtropical forest in south China, we conducted a four-year field census of four species with relatively large phylogenetic distances and found no distance-dependent mortality for newly germinated seedlings. By experimentally separating the effects of AMF and pathogens on seedling performance of six subtropical tree species in a shade house, we found that soil pathogens significantly inhibited seedling survival and growth while AMF largely promoted seedling growth, and these effects were host specific and declined with increasing conspecific distance. Together, our field and experimental results suggest that AMF can neutralize the negative effect of pathogens and that the Janzen-Connell effect may play a less prominent role in explaining diversity of nondominant tree species than previously thought.