The bundling of race and ethnicity with nation is common in state ideology and popular perceptions in East Asia. These beliefs in racial homogeneity deeply held by the societies that make up this world region are now being challenged by the international migration of workers, most of whom are themselves from Asia or ethnic Asian origins. The advent of multicultural societies has already begun and, given both the globalization of migration and demographic trends in the higher income economies, it will increasingly become an issue for public policy in the coming decades. While central governments tend to continue to reify the race-nation ideology, local governments and citizen groups have in many instances become more positive in their responses to the issues of cultural diversity and social justice for foreign workers working and living in their communities.
Mike Douglass is professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Hawaii. He has lived in East and Southeast Asia for more than twelve years, where he has carried out research and practice in urban policy and planning. His current research interests and projects include globalization and urban policy in the Asia Pacific region; urban poverty, environment, and social capital; foreign workers and households in Japan; and rural-urban linkages in national development. His recent books are Culture and the City in East Asia, edited with Won Bae Kim (Oxford, 1997); Cities for Citizens: Planning and the Rise of Civil Society in a Global Age, edited with John Friedmann (John Wiley, 1998); and Coming to Japan: Foreign Workers and Households in an Age of Global Migration, edited with Glenda Roberts (Routledge, 2000).