China's net users, some among the nation's most outspoken nationalists, said they were entertained and puzzled by a "childish" exchange between China and Japan in which both have called the other "Lord Voldemort", the archvillain of the Harry Potter novel-and-movie franchise.
In an article published on The Daily Telegraph last week , Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to London, accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of posing a serious threat to global peace and appealed to Britain to side with China against their common wartime enemy. Liu went on to compare Japan to Lord Voldemort.
"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," Liu wrote in his article.
In the fantasy books, a horcrux is a magical object that can keep a portion of a person's soul, and is created through an evil act.
Yet only days later, Keiichi Hayashi, Tokyo’s ambassador to London published a riposte  also on the Telegraph on Monday. He warned that China could become the "Lord Voldemort" of East Asia if it refuses to abide by the "rule of law".
"East Asia is now at a crossroads. 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," Hayashi wrote.
This fiercely fought war of words, carefully followed by the Chinese media including the state-owned Xinhua and the Global Times, have attracted mixed reaction from netizens.
"Japan really needs to upgrade its arguing technique," wrote a microblogger, "Even children know that if you start repeating your accuser's rhetoric, you are losing the debate."
"I had thought it was lame for China to use the Voldemort argument, and yet Japan hit a new low by repeating it," wrote another microblogger.
"I wonder what will show up in their next argument? The Deceptacons ?" quipped a microblogger on Weibo, referring to evil robots in the Transformers movie.
Yet some others said they agreed with Japan. "Look at how China is censoring media and criticism, isn't that exactly what Voldemort would do?"
On Yahoo Japan, a majority of Japanese commentators applauded Hayashi's retort. Many argued publishing articles in foreign media like this would help garner support and sympathy for Japan from other countries.
"It's time that Japanese ambassadors sent to other countries all speak up like Keiichi Hayashi did," a blogger self-titled as "Cut diplomatic relations with Korea and China" wrote. The comment was "liked" 5,968 times as of Tuesay.
"The Chinese are trying to make out [like] they are Harry Potter, but we all know they are the baddies," an anonymous Japanese blogger added.
Julian Ryall contributed to the reporting.