Harry Potter analogies misplaced in China-Japan diplomatic row

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 9:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 9:58am

Call it the Harry Potter theory of international relations. The Chinese and Japanese ambassadors to Britain have denounced each other's country's aggressive policy by likening it to the Dark Lord Voldemort.

While the exchange unhelpfully contributed further to the rancour and confusion in the standoff between the two countries, Potter fans have had a grand time dissecting the latest diplomatic row in proper Potterian terms. As one of those fans, I must take issues with the diplomats.

Liu Xiaoming , China's top diplomat in the UK, said it not once but twice - in the Daily Telegraph and then the BBC - that Japan's history of militarism is like the ghost of Voldemort. Adding a nice literary touch, he blasted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, site of the burial of several "Class A" war criminals, by calling the shrine "the horcrux that represents the darkest part of his nation's soul". For those not versed in the dark arts, a horcrux is the darkest of all inventions, only several of which were created, mostly by Voldemort, to store fragments of his soul to achieve immortality, at the cost of disfigurement and loss of humanity.

Not to be outdone, Japan's envoy Keiichi Hayashi responded by saying China could choose the path of dialogue, or play "the role of Voldemort ... by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions."

Au contraire, I have always thought Voldemort was the quintessential Machiavellian realist while Dumbledore, as secret founder and leader of the Order of the Phoenix was the (neo-)liberal interventionist. The Hogwarts and the Dark Arts had to slug it out as the Ministry of Magic was in decline and eventually overrun by the death eaters. American hegemonic decline?

Beijing has always rejected military interventions as disguised Western neo-imperialism, so no one would ever think President Xi Jinping was Dumbledore or Harry. In reality, Chinese and Japanese diplomats have always fancied themselves unsentimental realists. Maybe they are right about each other. Let's hope the two Voldemorts reach détente rather than going at each other's throats, for their sake and that of the rest of us Muggles, the non-magical folks.