Dragon Strike was published in 1997, and conceived of events as they might have happened in 2001. The world had not yet witnessed the India-Pakistan Nuclear tests, 9/11 and global jihad, War on Terror, Recession 2008, Xi Jinping’s or Trump’s Presidency. China was then still biding time by advertising her ‘peaceful rise’. The West was totally blinded by trade and investment opportunities and willing to overlook industrial espionage, piracy and human rights violations by the People’s Republic of China. The US was the sole superpower, without any foreseeable opposition. The Korean peninsula was relatively stable. Japan relied upon the American Nuclear Umbrella and felt bound by her Pacifist Constitution of 1960. The Dragon Strike scenario was created in the aftermath of US intervention in the Taiwan Straits in 1996. As a response to the Chinese missile tests and war exercises threatening Taiwan, the US had sent two aircraft carriers in the Straits in solidarity with the latter.
In the minds of the CCP bosses, the humiliation of 1996 had to be avenged. Scores of 1979 had to be settled with Vietnam. Ancient Chinese claims had to be reinforced in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines had to be shown their place. Despite repeated Chinese protests, they had kept exploiting oil and mineral wealth around Paracel and Sprately Islands, with active help from the Western countries. This is the fictional story of how the CCP hits back and takes control of East and South-east Asia from the Americans through bold planning and ice-cold execution.
After public acknowledgement of their failure in 1996, the PLA diverted resources towards modernization of military, deepening business links in the US and Europe, acquisition of strategic equipment from Russia, cultivation of alliances in the Middle-east, firming up their strategy and weaponization of their economic might. Wang Feng, a princeling in the mould of Xi, an ultra-nationalist, is firmly in saddle in 2001. Action begins with the invasion of Paracel/Nansha and Spratley/ Xisha Islands by the Chinese, who uproot the entrenched Vietnamese forces, take control of oil concerns, take the staff including foreigners hostages and blockade the South China Sea for further traffic. There is also a showdown with Philippines on the Mischief Reef, and show of force against the Malaysians. China declares its sovereignty over the islands and expects the world to agree.
The global reaction is muted. No one wants to annoy China for fear of losing out on business and investment. Japan, for whom the lanes of South China Sea are veritable lifelines, observes reluctance on part of the US to stand upto Chinese bullying, and decides to go nuclear to safeguard her own interests. North and South Korea come head-to-head and set the peninsula ablaze. With tactical, technological support from France, Vietnam executes major offensives against China and comes out triumphs in many engagements, but obviously chooses not to take back Paracel or Spratley ISlands. After a Chinese aircraft bombs a US non-military convoy killing many Americans and British civilians, the US sends a warship to rescue her remaining citizens. But it is brazenly sunk by the Chinese navy, and this leads to a full blown naval war in the South China Sea in which China is severely punished. But the Chinese had accounted for all of this.
As per the US, China was a deterred state, i.e. a reasonable power that would cave in to the Nuclear blackmail, unlike North Korea and Iran. This is where the Chinese call America’s bluff. They manage to send a kilo class diesel-electric submarine off the California coast having 200 KT Nuclear warheads with a range of 3000 km while a Xia-class submarine carrying strategic warheads armed with JL-2 missile having range 8000km silently lurked in the Eastern Pacific ,300km off the coast. China threatens the US with selective destruction, and the US President chickens out. Assessing that the CCP would not blink, the US accepts the Chinese terms for peace.
The novel discusses the Chinese worldview, according to which they have ancient claims over the whole South China Sea and further, on all crucial passages and straits in the Pacific and South & East China Seas, over large border areas with Vietnam, on Senkaku Islands of Japan, on Tibet, over both Inner and Outer Mongolia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Ladakh, Nathu La, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Bhutan, as well as every place where any Chinese grandee, admiral or trader had ever reached in stories or actually. Their hunger for land and influence is insatiable, and they are shamelessly ruthless in advancing those claims. That the Chinese people would never be humiliated or enslaved again by any imperial power in future is a major propaganda point of the CCP. In the eyes of many they might be authoritarian nationalists or fascists, but CCP leaders refer to themselves as disciplinarians and patriots. Their objectives in launching the Dragon Strike were-
- To oust the US from their military bases in Japan, South Korea and Philippines, and from the waters of South and East China Sea.
- To avenge the humiliations of 1979 (Vs .Vietnam) and 1996 (Taiwan Straits).
- To establish their claims of sovereignty over Paracel and Sprately Islands and Scarbourough Shoal, and to utilize their natural resources, esp. oil, for the economic advancement of the Chinese people.
- To establish China as the arbiter of Asia’s fate.
- To crush CCP’s opponents in China, and to establish complete CCP hegemony.
Most of these objectives are met since the West lacked guts to call China’s nuclear bluff (which was not a bluff anyway rather a sincere declaration of intent). Yet armed with the French and the American support respectively, Vietnam and Taiwan do save their honour and slam some bitter defeats upon the Chinese. The Chinese had rightly calculated that the US Federal government would succumb to the lure of economic carrot, and the fear of loss of thousands of lives, and not escalate matters. What is more, the PLA, which also dabbles in big businesses and speculations through its General Staff Department (GSD) manages to finance the Dragon Strike by their clever manipulation of currency markets and oil futures.
As a result of the Dragon Strike, China emerges as a superpower having two-water navy, regional hegemony and potent economic might.
As can be predicted in today’s times, general panic grips UK streets and full-blown street riots begin in the US after the Chinese nuclear threat becomes known. This ties the hands of their governments in any conflict against China. Coupled with potential economic setbacks like loss of investment and job losses, and disinterestedness of allies like Germany and the UK, the US decides to give in to the Chinese blackmail. They decide to withdraw from Asia, leaving Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to their fates.
The novel is written as a future history, an exercise in military and political prediction, about a country whose emergence as a global power is one of the most important developments of the late 20th century. The global fear of China is real, considering that the bosses of the Communist Party of China take their historical delusions quite seriously. Amazingly, Dragon Strike seems more relevant in 2020 than it would have been in 1997. To bad, Hawksley did not predict Corona Virus as well.
(Humphrey Hawksley is an ex-BBC correspondent, and an author of many accomplished novels and non-fictional works. His chief work Dragon Fire portrays a Chin-Pak Versus India scenario.)
#dragonstrike #humphreyhawksley #dragonfire #PRC #CCP #China
#senkaku #Taiwan #SouthChinaSea #EastChinaSea #ParacelIslands