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Japan's hysteric desire for global sympathy
Publication Date : 11-01-2014
Just because both invoked the fictional evil wizard of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, the bickering between Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming and his Japanese counterpart Keiichi Hayashi in the Daily Telegraph has been a huge media sensation.
Which is perfectly understandable.
No country wants to be associated with, let alone being called, Voldemort, be it truly peace-loving, or using peace as a mere fig leaf.
In the words of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, Voldemort is a "raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people's suffering."
It is thus outrageously inappropriate to address any country as Voldemort. Particularly so for a person schooled in the art of diplomacy. It is blatant insult to a country as a whole.
Which is why it is unfair to designate the Liu-Hayashi bout as a collective breach of diplomatic etiquette. Truth is, things had not degraded until the Japanese ambassador issued his retort.
Liu's article was a fine piece of reasoning featuring a cool-headed analysis of the past and present of the China-Japan row, a passionate call for vigilance against the potential resurgence of militarism in a right-turning Japan. It was based firmly on historical and present facts, international laws and conventions, and everyday logic and commonsense of us Muggles.
And Ambassador Liu never deviated from diplomatic decency to call Japan as a country 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.
He likened militarism to Voldemort, and Yasukuni to his horcrux. The analogies cannot be more fitting and appropriate.
It was his Japanese colleague that pulled the debate a notch below decency.
Take a look at the most-quoted argument at the centre of the Hayashi article: "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..."
A tough announcement indeed. For China, it is talk or be Voldemort.
The logic is weirdly porous yet well in line with that of his boss Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
They sound desperate for a dialogue, but deny there is any dispute to talk about.
Right after visiting the notorious Yasukuni, a symbol of Japan's militarist past where 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined, the defiant Abe told the world he wanted dialogue with Chinese and South Korean leaders. Dialogues "without preconditions". He actually imposed two preconditions on China for such a dialogue: Forsake sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands; and "respect" his homage to the Yasukuni criminals.
Ambassador Hayashi's article displays the very same paranoia and self-contradictory logic.
In his article, Hayashi brags about Japan's track record of "commitment to peace". But he evades the heinous World War II atrocities of Japanese imperial troops. He avoids the truth that the "commitment" he praises was imposed by the international community through a pacifist constitution. When he highlights Abe's "pledge for peace", he omits the key latest development that Abe is bent on revising the pacifist constitution and rebuilding Japan's military identity.
When he points the finger at the increase in Chinese military budget, which he claims is twice that of Japan, he ignores the facts that China's population is more than 10 times that of Japan, and that China's land territory alone is almost 26 times that of Japan. China has every reason to double and redouble its military expenditure. Not to mention the obvious logical loophole that equals size or speed of growth to a "militarist" sticker.
It is Japan's rightist turn and militarist tendencies that are causing concerns in the community.
When he sings the praise of his government's approach to history, he conceals the truth that his government has been intentionally whitewashing Japan's shameful past from textbooks, and Abe himself is questioning the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials, and even the very definition of aggression.
When he talks about reconciliation, when he says "it takes two for this to be achieved", he shifts the blame on to victim countries instead. While the Japanese head of government and his colleagues rub salt in the wounds of victims of Japan's war crimes, he wants the latter to show "magnanimity" of swallowing injustice.
When he criticises China for its belated protests against Japanese politicians' Yasukuni visits, he deliberately blasphemes the goodwill of the Chinese side and dodges the immoral nature of such pilgrimages. The Chinese had not lodged official protests until the 14 Class-A war criminals were enshrined there, and high-ranking Japanese politicians began to pay homage to them in sizeable crowds. That was motivated by a strong desire to not derail the otherwise smooth bilateral ties at the time. Which was in no way a nod to his government's morbid outlook on history.
As Hayashi states, one visit to Yasukuni, one act of provocation, or one other gesture of obscenity will not suffice to turn Japan instantly militarist, or a regional bully. But the accumulation of such moves, combined with outside connivance, may result in hazardous outcomes.
The conspicuous absence of Muggle propriety in the Japanese ambassador's rhetoric mirrors a hysteric desire for international sympathy.
But Japanese propaganda needs the help of the course "Muggle Studies" at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to come to terms with the common logic of our non-wizard world.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily.