US President Donald Trump’s recent jabs at four freshmen Democrats – telling them to “go back” and “help fix” the countries they came from – have been characterised as a calculated political manoeuvre, playing to a base leery of immigrants and unconvinced of the benefits of diversity. But the remarks also speak to a larger global fear around ethnic and religious plurality, a trend that we see in Asian nations that are experiencing a rise in identity politics, while hosting growing numbers of migrants and foreigners. From Japan to Singapore , anti-foreigner sentiment bordering on racism can be seen both in online and offline spheres – despite countries being dependent on migrants to sustain high standards of living, ensure cities run smoothly and remain competitive globally. For example, even though Japan has a reputation for being a polite country, a study released by the Anti-Racism Information Centre earlier this year highlighted how foreign nationals were refused rental accommodation or denied access to shops by locals. Donald Trump tries to distance himself from ‘Send her back’ chant at rally Since Trump’s tweets on Sunday about the congresswomen – all of whom are Americans with one, Ilhan Omar, born in Somalia – leaders in the Asia-Pacific such as Jacinda Ardern have publicly condemned his remarks, asserting the importance of political representation for different ethnic groups in New Zealand. Beyond such representation though, the region has to remain welcoming to migrant foreigners without succumbing to the damaging rhetoric of racist exclusion. Our history and current demographic trends demand it. Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show “weakness” and fall into their trap. This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat..... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> .....Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country. Get a list of the HORRIBLE things they have said. Omar is polling at 8%, Cortez at 21%. Nancy Pelosi tried to push them away, but now they are forever wedded to the Democrat Party. See you in 2020! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019 <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!--\n\n\n//--><!]]> Asia stands as the continent with the largest international migration flows in the world. There are currently 80 million international migrants in Asia (compared to 58 million in North America). It is not just the continent where most migrants live, but also the region from which most international migrants originate. India and China are the two top remittance receiving nations in the world, in terms of citizens abroad sending money home. While this income does not make up a majority of either nation’s GDP, it does foster social mobility at the individual and family level, and often increases standards of living across generations as well as within local communities. Many Asian countries have historically been migrant receiving, with older strands of intra-Asian migration that predate colonialism. During British, French and Dutch rule, new migration patterns added to the ethnic complexity of the region. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are examples of such diverse nations. All have ethnic majorities but significant ethnic and religious minorities, requiring policies to manage these differences. Singapore has an ethnic Chinese majority of 74 per cent, while non-Malay ethnic minorities constitute 49 per cent of Malaysia’s population . While both nations are highly race conscious – for example, Malaysia’s Bumiputra policy aims to give the majority group an economic boost – these differences have not led to violent conflict. In Singapore, traditional markers of ethnic integration, such as interracial marriage, point to very positive outcomes for diversity. One in four marriages now is between a Singaporean and a foreigner, and more than 22 per cent of marriages registered are of inter-ethnic couples. Migration from within and outside Asia in the past few decades has led to further diversity, creating new cleavages in society but also strengthening national identities that cut across ethnic lines. Migrants also serve an important role in the labour force. In the case of Singapore and Malaysia, they make up nearly 30 per cent of workers and allow for high levels of growth and productivity. Rather than taking jobs away from citizens, migrant labour has allowed more women and men to participate in the workforce by doing underappreciated tasks, such as looking after children and the elderly. The low-wage regimes that migrants labour in also allow host cities to afford a standard of living and infrastructure renewal that would otherwise not be possible. Migrants have also brought about benefits not immediately visible. Ethnic diversity within countries is a resource celebrated for its tourism potential and for its propensity to mark and mould cities, making them into more inclusive and interesting spaces for international capital and citizens. There of course remains much work to be done in the treatment and provision of rights for migrants and immigrants in Asia, especially those in low-wage and hard labour jobs. However, there is already a growing awareness among the middle classes of the need for such fairer treatment. In America, immigration was perhaps the key political issue in Trump’s election three years ago. Commentators have suggested that Trump’s recent Twitter tirade is only the latest attempt to galvanise a Republican voter base for whom the inclusion of ethnic minority immigrants into the nation is an acute visceral threat. The lack of widespread condemnation for such actions also suggests the United States is no longer fully committed to a national identity that celebrates diversity nor values its melting-pot, immigrant character. Here is where Asia has offered a different model. In the 2011 elections in Singapore, the long-ruling PAP suffered uncharacteristic electoral losses, attributed mostly to the rapid and large influx of immigrants into the city state. In stark contrast to the divisive electoral politics of Donald Trump, this kick-started a more concerted effort to address integration, while emphasising the continued need for immigration. While negative sentiments still exist today, it is clear that migrants are wanted and welcome. Xenophobia and nativist sentiments may rise particularly in times of economic recession, when migrants and immigrants stoke fears of resource deprivation. Countries in Asia have largely stemmed this negative rhetoric, in part through policies that favour residents with legal citizenship, and through firm public rhetoric that communicates the importance and value of welcoming difference. It is imperative that Asian states continue to do so, in an era where foreignness is exploited as a political tool to ignite an angry, clamorous minority.