Japan Deems Biden's Description of Japan as Xenophobic 'Unfortunate' and Misguided

US President Joe Biden labeled Japan "xenophobic" alongside China and Russia, sparking controversy. Japan responded, calling the characterization "unfortunate" and "misguided," citing its unique cultural context and recent efforts to loosen immigration policies.

Nitish Verma
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Biden Sparks Controversy by Calling Japan 'Xenophobic'

Biden Sparks Controversy by Calling Japan 'Xenophobic'

US President Joe Biden has sparked controversy by labeling Japan as "xenophobic" alongside China and Russia, prompting a response from Tokyo that the characterization is "unfortunate"and"misguided". Biden made the comment on Wednesday during a campaign fundraiser, stating that Japan, India, China, and Russia"don't want immigrants"and are struggling economically as a result.

Why this matters: The controversy highlights the complexities of immigration policies and their implications for economic growth, cultural identity, and international relationships. As countries grapple with demographic changes and labor shortages, the debate around immigration is likely to have significant consequences for global economic cooperation and diplomatic relations.

The White House later attempted to clarify Biden's remarks, with spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre insisting that the president was making a broader comment on the situation in the US rather than simply putting Japan and India in the same category as China and Russia. "Our allies and partners know very well how much this president respects them," Jean-Pierre said.

On Saturday, the Japanese government responded, calling Biden's comments "unfortunate" and stating they were "not based on an accurate understanding of Japan's policy." The government had already delivered this message to the White House and explained its policies and stances.

Academics in Japan expressed mixed feelings about the "xenophobic" label. Sumie Kawakami, a sociology lecturer at Yamanashi Gakuin University, said it was "very unfortunate" that Biden "put Japan in the same category as Russia and China", pointing out that Japan has become more welcoming towards foreigners in recent years. "For Biden to describe Japan as 'xenophobic' is too much," Kawakami said.

Kawakami noted that Japan is a small island nation with a largely homogenous population, making its immigration policy different from that of the US, which is a nation of immigrants. She emphasized that Japan's unique cultural context and history do not make it xenophobic. Online comments reflected a range of opinions, with some users defending Japan's culture and religion, while others acknowledged the need for Japan to do more on immigration policy.

The controversy comes less than a month after Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a lavish state dinner in Washington, calling the US-Japan alliance"unbreakable". Japan has traditionally had strict immigration policies, but has loosened them in recent years to address a shrinking and aging population. The country is grappling with how to balance the need for more foreign workers withconcerns about the impacton its society and culture.

Key Takeaways

  • US President Joe Biden labels Japan as "xenophobic" alongside China and Russia.
  • Japan responds, calling the characterization "unfortunate" and "misguided".
  • The White House clarifies Biden's remarks, saying they were meant to comment on the US situation.
  • Japan's immigration policies are complex, balancing labor needs with cultural concerns.
  • The controversy highlights the challenges of immigration policies and their global implications.