Japanese Ambassador to the UK Keiichi Hayashi wrote a piece in The Telegraph, refuting Liu Xiaoming, his Chinese counterpart in the UK, by saying that China risks playing "the role of Voldemort" in regional tensions with Japan.
The same fictional evil character, which was derived from British author J.K. Rowling's best-selling children's series, was first used by Ambassador Liu in his New Year's Day article in the same newspaper, when he said "militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan."
Meanwhile, Japanese media have said that Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to invite more than 100 international journalists based in China to visit Japan, promoting its stance in the territorial conflicts with China and South Korea. A war of public opinion between China and Japan is now in full swing.
Unlike 120 years ago when the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) broke out, a hot war between the two nations will probably be avoided. However, public opinion warfare has already begun, and the outcome greatly matters to both sides' strategies toward each other in the future.
The tensions were triggered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine. It showed Japan's brazen defiance of the legacy of WWII. Abe has already lost half the chance to win the war of public opinion due to the anger of the international community.
But Japan is good at leveraging international public opinion by making full use of its own public. Abe might have the chance to turn the tables by playing tricks.
Unable to overturn the outcome of WWII and the convictions of those enshrined class-A war criminals, Japan is trying to shift the focus from Abe's visit and WWII's impact on Sino-Japanese relations to the territorial conflicts and China's growing military budget. It is trying to re-establish a value-oriented alliance with the West, regaining the initiative.
Values are Japan's favorite platform to play tricks. It tries every means to depict the Sino-Japanese conflicts as efforts to fight against an authoritarian nation. In this way it can win back sympathy from the Western mainstream media. Japan boasts top-notch skills at leading public opinion.
However, saying such a visit is for "world peace" still doesn't make any sense. No matter how ideology-oriented world public opinion is, no one can call white black.
What China should do is to draw clear distinctions between right and wrong with Japan. China should focus on Abe's attitudes, exemplified by his visit to the shrine, and let the world know Japan's stubbornness. Blaming such a prime minister is the joint responsibility of China, South Korea and many other Asian countries, to safeguard world peace.
There are no flying cannonballs in the battlefield of public opinion, but it still requires the unity of the entire Chinese society to fight this war.