It’s a shame that Western nations are not as homogenous as Japan.
Eamon Fingleton writes: As Third World migration increasingly dominates the headlines in the European Union and the United States, the rich nations of East Asia have been keeping heads their down. With good reason. True to their ultra-strict immigration policies, they have been admitting virtually no refugees.
South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China are at one in shunning almost all asylum seekers, no matter how deserving they may be. But even by East Asian standards, Japan is remarkably stone-hearted. It accepted a mere six asylum seekers in 2013 and eleven in 2014. Its admission rate seems particularly remarkable when compared with Australia’s. Australia after all is remote from the sources of the refugee problem. By contrast many troubled nations – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma, for instance – are relatively speaking in Japan’s backyard. Yet Australia last year granted visas to 6,501 refugees.
For those who are keeping score, the remarkable thing is how successfully Japan has escaped international censure. Not to put too fine a point on it, Japan is the Teflon nation of global diplomacy. Nothing seems to stick. No matter how disappointingly it falls short of international expectations, it is rarely held to account.
The pattern was set long ago in trade policy. Already by the early 1970s, Japan had become notorious for constantly promising market opening measures that never materialized. Yet this did nothing to discourage American and European officials from negotiating further trade treaties that were in their time declared to represent a definitive end to Japanese mercantilism.
In Japanese refugee policy as in trade, a key factor is a little-noticed genius for public relations. But this is for the most part not normal public relations. Rather, the Japanese establishment pursues the sort of negative strategy that Howard Hughes adopted when he spent millions keeping his name out of the papers. On the one hand Japan ensures that its true policies remain as little publicized as possible; on the other it promotes various forms of tokenism to spike the guns of potential critics.
It helps that most Tokyo-based foreign correspondents are in the establishment’s pocket. This applies in particular to those who have lived long term in Japan. Meanwhile for the most part more recent arrivals are so pole-axed by culture shock that they have to be babysat at all times by their research assistants (almost all of whom can be assumed to be on message in serving Japan’s national agenda).
…Another factor is believed to be a concern to avoid diluting Japan’s societal homogeneity. Again Japanese leaders rarely if ever comment frankly but it can be assumed that in common with their counterparts elsewhere in East Asia they hold that a nation works best when it is least fractured by religious, linguistic, and ethnic differences.