In an escalating international war of words, Chinese and Japanese diplomats are having a fine old time comparing one another to Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard and antagonist of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series.
China's Liu Xiaoming, in an editorial published last week, criticized the decision of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to visit a temple where 14 convicted WWII war criminals are enshrined.
"If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan," he wrote, "the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul."
In "China risks becoming Asia's Voldemort," Japans Keiichi Hayashi responds by accusing Beijing of coercive tactics in its quest to change the status quo, and defends his nation's commitment to human rights.
"There are two paths open to China," said Hayashi. "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."
The blow-trading takes place against the context of rising tensions between the two asian powers, whose competing claims on a string of uninhabited islands symbolizes broader issues of international influence and military expansion.
In the Harry Potter books and motion pictures, Voldemort is a once-vanquished sorcerer who returns to inveigle his way into the secret world of wizards and witches, hidden in the modern world's shadows. Leading a conspiracy known as the Death Eaters, he succeeds in taking over Britain's Ministry of Magic, but is ultimately defeated by the young hero, Harry Potter, and his allies. To do so, Potter tracks down and destroys the Horcruxes referred to by Liu Xiaoming: everyday objects into which Voldemort locked away part of his soul.
It is unclear from the communiques what characters Japan and China each see themselves as playing in the dramatic game of international smack-talk. But we do know which one Russia plays: media there have long complained about the uncanny resemblance of servile house-elf Dobby to President Vladimir Putin.