Biden stirs controversy by labelling Japan, India as ‘xenophobic’ nations

“Why is China stalling so badly economically, why is Japan having trouble, why is Russia, why is India, because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants. Immigrants are what makes us strong.”

United States President Joe Biden has sparked controversy by labelling key allies Japan and India, alongside China and Russia, as countries that are failing to reap the economic rewards of migration due to their “xenophobic” attitudes towards foreigners.

During a campaign fundraising event, Biden, whose remarks were not filmed or recorded, stated that hostility towards immigrants was hindering the growth of these nations. He drew a direct contrast with the United States, attributing the country’s economic growth to its welcoming stance towards immigrants.

“One of the reasons why our economy’s growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants,” Biden said at the event marking the start of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. “Why is China stalling so badly economically, why is Japan having trouble, why is Russia, why is India, because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants. Immigrants are what makes us strong.”

Biden’s remarks about Japan and India came as a surprise, given his administration’s efforts to strengthen ties with these nations since taking office in 2021. Just three weeks ago, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was welcomed at the White House for a state dinner, where Biden celebrated the “unbreakable” partnership between the two countries and their shared commitment to democracy and freedom.

Similarly, Biden welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House for a state visit last year, further solidifying the strategic partnership between the two nations. Japan and India are also part of the Quad security grouping, a key alliance in the Indo-Pacific region.

The White House sought to downplay the president’s remarks on Thursday, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stating that Biden’s broader point was to highlight the United States’ identity as a nation of immigrants.

“Our allies know very well how much the president respects them, values their friendship, values their contributions,” Kirby told reporters.

Japan has the lowest level of migration among the Group of Seven nations, with only 2 per cent of its population comprising immigrants, compared to 14 per cent in the United States. The country has been slowly opening its doors to outsiders to compensate for its rapidly ageing population.

India, on the other hand, recently overtook China to become the world’s most populous nation. Earlier this year, it passed a new citizenship law that fast-tracks naturalization for non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan – a move that marks the first time India has set religious criteria for citizenship.

Neither Japan nor India has officially responded to Biden’s comments, which have sparked debates around immigration policies and the role of diversity in economic growth.