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Biden calls U.S. ally Japan ‘xenophobic,’ along with China and Russia

HONG KONG — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. ally Japan is struggling economically due to xenophobia, along with other countries including China and Russia.

Speaking at a fundraising campaign in Washington that marked the start of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Biden said the U.S. economy is growing in part “because we welcome immigrants”.

“Think about it,” he said. “Why is China stagnating so badly economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why Russia?

“Because they are xenophobic,” he said. “They don’t want immigrants.”

Japan is a long-time US ally in the Asia-Pacific region, and Biden has strengthened security ties with Tokyo to counter China in the region, after hosting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a summit and a state dinner in Washington last month.

There was no immediate reaction Thursday from Japan, which is largely on vacation this week.

Although many experts would agree with Biden’s statement, “it’s not a diplomatic thing to say about one of America’s closest allies, especially because America has its own problems with xenophobia that Japanese people see in the news all the time,” said Jeffrey Hall of Japanese studies. lecturer at Kanda International Studies University in Chiba, Japan. “So that seems to me to be something that didn’t need to be said in that context,” he told NBC News.

“It will feel like America is once again speaking to the Japanese,” Hall said, “and that’s not really an effective way to get Japan to solve various problems in its society that even the Japanese would recognize as problems.”

Like many other Asian countries, Japan struggles with demographic problems, including an aging and declining population.

The country of 125 million people is trying to attract more foreign workers but is hampered by restrictive immigration laws that make it difficult to obtain permanent residency.

In March, Japan’s cabinet approved legislation that would more than double the cap on skilled foreign workers, to more than 800,000, and replace an internship program with a training system for unskilled foreign workers that could provide residency medium to long term, according to local media. reported.

To maintain economic growth, the country will need 6.74 million foreign workers by 2040, the Japan International Cooperation Agency said in a 2022 report, up from 2.05 million in the country in October. About a quarter of Japan’s foreign workers come from Vietnam, followed by China with 19% and the Philippines with 11%, the Labor Ministry said in January.

Japan ranked 35th out of 56 countries in the 2020 Migrant Integration Policy Index, which categorizes the country’s approach as “immigration without integration.” Researchers said foreign nationals in Japan are denied equal opportunities and several basic rights, including protection against discrimination, putting them far behind other developed countries.

“Japan’s current policies encourage the public to view immigrants as subordinates, not neighbors,” the report said.

Public attitudes on this issue, however, appear to be changing.

A national survey this year by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 62% of respondents supported accepting more foreign workers, up from 44% in 2018.

“People need to balance their fear of cultural change and societal change with simple economic decline without a solution,” Hall said.

The question of what it means to be Japanese is a growing topic of discussion in the country, where three foreign-born residents filed a lawsuit against the government in January, arguing that police officers were violating the constitution by arresting them and by questioning them repeatedly on the basis alone. about their appearance and ethnicity.

A debate also took place in January over whether a naturalized Japanese citizen of Ukrainian descent could represent the country after being crowned Miss Japan. (Pageant winner Carolina Shiino relinquished her title in February after revealing she had an affair with a married man.)

Besides social problems, Japan is also struggling with a weak yen, which is at a 34-year low against the dollar, making the country less attractive as it competes for foreign workers with countries like South Korea and Taiwan.

The yen jumped against the dollar early Thursday, following what traders suspected was a new round of interventions by Japanese authorities to halt the currency’s sharp decline.

Japan already has severe labor shortages in agriculture, construction, manufacturing and other sectors, a problem made worse by border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Authorities are also trying to address shortages by encouraging greater participation of women in the labor market, as well as later retirement.

Once the world’s second-largest economy, Japan said in March that its economy grew 0.4% annually in the final quarter of 2023, compared with an initial estimate of a 0.4% contraction, which would have put it in a difficult situation. technical recession.

It is now the world’s fourth largest economy after falling behind Germany earlier this year.

News Source : www.nbcnews.com
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