The longstanding East Asian rivalry between China and Japan has once again made headlining news, this time with Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter playing an unlikely cameo in the diplomatic feud between ambassadors of both countries.
Earlier this month top diplomats from the two countries invoked the fictional evil wizard over disputes aboutJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine—where Japan’s war dead are honored along with convicted war criminals. Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xioming first made the reference in an opinion piece published by the Daily Telegraph. In the article, Liu wrote “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”—referring to the horcruxes used by Voldemort to hide fragments of his soul in an attempt to prolong life.
Not surprisingly Japan’s ambassador to the UK responded with a piece in the same newspaper saying, “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.”
While this diplomatic feud may be seen as another clash between the two rivals, it may also be viewed as a new phase of China’s public diplomacy. Having established itself as a new global power, the country now seeks to win the support from the international community. Over the years, China has significantly expanded its public diplomacy through the use of soft power. This includes sending a number of students abroad and hosting many cultural and worldly events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. As China’s role in the international community continues to grow, it will be interesting to see not only how the country’s public diplomacy evolves, but also how it will influence the approach to public diplomacy by other nations.