Confirming J.K. Rowling's role as future queen-of-the-universe, her fictional character, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, has made his way into a surreal diplomatic dispute between Japan and China. Last week, a Chinese envoy used the British press to compare Japan to Lord Voldemort. (Like professionals do.) As if that weren't enough, Japan's ambassador to Britain threw the insult right back at Beijing on Sunday, fueling a furious row between the two countries. Where's Dumbledore when you need him, eh?
The op-eds, which appeared in British newspapers last weekend and this Sunday, were focused on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent trip to a controversial Tokyo shrine, in which several convicted war criminals are buried. In the Jan. 2 article, published in the Daily Telegraph, Chinese envoy Liu Xiaoming criticized the prime minister's visit and compared modern Japan to Harry Potter's evil arch-nemesis, calling on Britain to side with China against their common enemy.
"If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul," the Chinese ambassador wrote, simultaneously showing off his literary flair and insulting Japan.
But his Japanese counterpart, Keiichi Hayashi, was quick to counter the jibe, warning that China was itself on the verge of "letting loose the evil" of the dark lord.
"East Asia is now at a crossroads," Hayashi wrote in Sunday's op-ed, also in the Daily Telegraph. "There are two paths open to China. One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side." He added that during the trip, the Prime Minister had renewed a pledge for “everlasting peace” and had wanted “by no means to pay homage to war criminals.”
Underlying the, er, wittiness of the dispute is a larger strain between the two countries, as China's economy continues to grow. Tensions are also simmering over a set of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, currently controlled by Japan — the islands are a point of contention that have raised fears of an eventual all-out military conflict in Asia.
By that time, though, Harry will have already saved the day.