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London Mayor Boris Johnson leveraged one of his country’s most recognizable cultural exports during his week-long trade mission to China on Monday – but the voluble mayor seemed to conflate fiction with reality somewhat in the process.
During a joint appearance with U.K. Chancellor George Osborne at Beijing’s most elite educational institution, Peking University, Johnson went on a brief rant about Harry Potter, and how the young wizard’s romantic interest in the character Cho Chang, an Asian foreign exchange student, is indicative of the growing diplomatic ties between the U.K. and China (Johnson asserted that Chang is Chinese, although most Harry Potter bios simply say she is “of Asian descent”).
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The mayor and the chancellor’s visit to China is intended, in part, as an exercise in bolstering goodwill between the two countries, after the interchange went icy when David Cameron angered the Chinese government last year by meeting with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Johnson is a recognizable and well-liked figure in China. He’s remembered for his appearance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where he accepted the Olympic flag from the Chinese during the closing ceremony – where his blond bowl cut first caught the attention of the Chinese audience.
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His remarks to the students of Peking University, regarding Harry Potter and the series’ import regarding future U.K.-China relations, are below:
“And if you want one final proof of how fast the world is changing, the cultural interpenetration between Britain and China, let me ask you a question, brilliant students of Peking University. Who in English literature is the most famous student? Who is the most famous student in contemporary British writing, would you say? I will give you a clue — he sometimes has a wand… Harry Potter.
Where does the train go from which Harry Potter has to catch to go to his school? King’s Cross, absolutely right, which is where? London. Where does Harry Potter buy his uniform and his wand and stuff like that and his books? I think it’s in Diagon Alley which is in London. Where is the location of the Ministry of Magic? London.
And who according to JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels, was Harry Potter’s first girlfriend? Who is the first person he kisses? That’s right, Cho Chang – who is a Chinese overseas student at Hogwarts school.
Ladies and gents I rest my case. I don’t think I need to argue any further, that is the future of Britain and of London.”
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