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No, Japan’s actually not a xenophobic country

The other day at a fundraiser, Joe Biden made a casual comment that I consider to be the worst gaffe of his entire term as president. He declared that two of America’s most important allies, India and Japan, are “xenophobic”, and placed them in the same category as Russia and China:

From a diplomatic standpoint, this was extremely stupid since it insults our allies while gaining absolutely nothing. It’s also a little hypocritical, given that Biden just vowed to block a Japanese steel company from acquiring US Steel on incredibly flimsy pretexts — not to mention all the restrictive measures Biden has taken towards immigration over the course of his presidency in order to appease the US public. Glass houses, etc.

The White House should have walked the comment back and apologized, but instead it defended the remark, saying it was part of a “broader point.” The fact that even a Democratic administration can so casually insult key allies should make us a little more pessimistic about the US’ ability to assemble a global coalition of democracies in the decades to come.

But beyond the diplomatic stupidity of the remark, it’s just not factually true. I don’t know enough about India to make a judgment, but I do know a fair amount about Japan, and the common trope that it’s a xenophobic country that doesn’t want immigrants is just provably false.

First, I think we should define our standards here. Every country has some element of xenophobia within its populace. And every country has some additional wariness of large-scale immigration that doesn’t rise to the level of what we’d probably be willing to call “xenophobia”, since “xenophobia” is an insulting word.

This is why no country on the planet has anything even remotely