china

The Chinese Premier had learnt how to handle unexpected phone calls from the US President. Typically his American opposite asked him to address the vast difference in their balance of trade, to let the yuan appreciate or to do something about Chinese protectionism. Or, most tiresome of all, he would lecture him about human rights like he was addressing the White House press gallery in public and not the Chinese Premier in private.

The premier would listen politely, promise to look into it – and then, just like the Japanese had done with the Americans decades before, when they were at the height of their powers, do nothing. He wasn’t about to hamstring China for winning at a game that the Americans themselves had help create. The Americans had forgotten one of the rules of international diplomacy: never ask for something you don’t have the strength to take.

The latest G20 summit, where the heads of Europe had offered him and China’s money a rock star welcome while the US President sat fuming on the sidelines, should have told the Americans everything they needed to know about the new global realpolitik.
Yet it was with great alarm that he heard the president rage about the presence of biological weapons of mass destruction on American soil. Worse, that he had proof of Chinese involvement in bringing them to the States, and plans to detonate them. The furious president said that if even one went off he would hold China responsible, and he couldn’t guarantee what would happen next. America had invaded Iraq on the strength of suspected weapons of mass destruction. They were stone-cold paranoid about WMDs. If they had proof of real ones on US soil …

Now coldly angry, both at the threat and the idea that someone had planned this attack behind his back – he would never have authorised something like this during China’s catch-up phase – the premier promised he would do everything in his power to assist the president. That as soon as he got off the phone he would launch an immediate investigation, starting with the background of the assailant that had been caught, now dead. (Did the Americans torture him to death, he wondered.) He would send some of his best men to assist in the investigation. The premier offered the US President China’s full co-operation, and he meant it. The president said he’d phone again soon and that he hoped they could avert catastrophe together.

When the call was ended, the Chinese Premier slammed his fist on his desk. He did not need this kind of headache. He did not want any disruption to the status quo, anything that might make the people restive and question their leaders. He did not want an Arab Spring sweeping his country, where the West hypocritically turned on its former partners and installed new leaders. The lesson of Colonel Gaddafi, that strutting buffoon, was that any country without weapons of mass destruction could be invaded and overthrown by the West. China would never make that mistake. Its leaders would never allow themselves to be pulled out of a drain pipe and shot in the head by rebels like the late Libyan dictator. They would not die suspiciously of “exhaustion” on military trains like the late Kim Jong-il. There would be no Chinese Spring.

He knew that some of his generals had talked about war with America – seemingly welcomed it, even, yearning to embrace China’s glorious military heritage. The military was always pushing the civilian establishment, jostling for position, seeing how far it could go and how much ground it could win from the soft civilians. The premier knew how the military thought: they viewed politicians as weak, corruptible. Yet the premier and his cohorts were far from weak. And corruption was a country-wide problem, from the lowest villager to the most powerful general.

The Communist Party as a principle was firmly against such a war with the US. Not until China’s economy rivalled America’s, along with its army, would they consider such a step. And it wouldn’t be a full-scale war: more like a lesson. Such as seizing the recalcitrant Taiwan and fending off the inevitable US response. Or discouraging American warships in Asia with patrols of their own. No, with trillions of Chinese yuan pumped into the US economy and millions of Chinese working in factories making products to sell to the US, China didn’t want to destroy the US. You don’t destroy your best customer. But China did hope to supplant it, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa.

The Chinese Premier picked up the phone. “Get me everyone,” he said.

Continue reading with The Spartan, out now as an ebook. Then keep reading with the sequel, Game Of Killers: The Spartan, out now as an ebook and paperback.

 

“Why, it’s the most interesting man you know, come to pay you a visit.”
“Welcome Colonel Garin,” said the president’s secretary, Harmony, a blonde beauty in her early fifties. “The president is expecting you.” Garin sat on the desktop next to her. He detected a delightful perfume coming from her.
“Thanks, darling.”
“Darling?” said Harmony, trimmed eyebrows raised. “Ever heard of sexual harassment, Colonel Garin?”
“What, I’ll be prosecuted because I haven’t harassed you enough?” Harmony laughed a delightful knowing laugh. She had always liked Garin, his direct sexuality, something far removed from the young stuffed shirts who paraded through the office. She seemed about to say something when the president’s door opened.
“Stop flirting with my secretary and get in here, Colonel Garin.” Garin winked at Harmony.
“Another time,” he said.
“Enter freely and of your own will,” said the President as he waved Garin through the door into the Oval Office. Every time he came in here he was impressed by the sense of history that came with the room. The President gestured for the colonel to sit in a chair. Garin sat down before the president’s desk.
“I’d like to say your visits are welcome, colonel, but you always tell me something appalling in afoot. I feel like Pavlov’s puckering dog – every time you enter my sphincter puckers in fear.” The colonel laughed.
“I’m afraid this time it’s not any better, sir. Maybe even worse.” The President sighed. He’d gotten visibly older since taking on the job. His hair was greyer, his features older. But still a vital president. Still a good man. Garin had voted for him – several times, actually, in the same election.
“A Chinese agent was caught trying to plant a biological weapon on a rooftop in Brighton Beach.”
The President sat bolt upright. “What?”
“Preliminary intel suggests it is part of a larger conspiracy to attack the US with more such devices. Blues States, Red States – none are safe.  We don’t know how many canisters and agents are out there, but I believe we have four days to find them.”  The president was shocked. His handsome face did something weird.
“Sweet mercy. What was in the canisters?”
“I’m having the one we have analysed. But I believe it is ….” Garin told him what it was – an incredibly contagious bioweapon made during the Cold War. Limited edition batch. Made people bleed from eyes to asshole before it killed them. Part of Project Rebirth.
“The Russians were willing to kill everyone in the United States with biological weapons?” gasped the president.
“It was the Cold War, sir,” reasoned Garin. “Both sides had all sorts of bullshit plans. We probably had one of our own just like Project Rebirth.”
“I don’t want to even know. So now we have multiple canisters of it waiting to go off? And the Chinese are behind it?”
“It looks like it, sir. Frankly, it was only blind luck we even caught this first one.”
“Luck?” exclaimed the president, practically hyperventilating. “We spend billions … trillions! … so we don’t have to rely on luck!”
“Sometimes that’s what it comes down to, Mr President. Sorry. Anyway, an associate caught this man in his club. He’s old-school – he looks people in the eye rather than rely on technology.” The president looked ill.
“But why a nightclub?”
“We don’t know that for sure. It could be personal. But if it is what we think it is, the weapon is so contagious it doesn’t matter where you detonate them. There’s an incubation period of a few hours, so by the time people realise they’re sick they’ve spread it on. The problem is, the symptoms don’t reveal themselves for days.” The President nodded. He’d been fully briefed on chemical warfare.
“Thus spreading the contagion to the maximum number of people. I want that substance analysed immediately so we know what we’re dealing with, and whether there is any cure.” The President saw the red light on his phone go on, but he ignored it. “Where is this Chinese agent now?”
“He’s dead.”
“Dead?”
As dead as newspapers. Killed during interrogation by my associate.” The President frowned.
“I don’t condone torture, Colonel Garin.”
“I know sir.” That’s why I don’t tell you when I use “enhanced interrogation techniques”, thought Garin. “But there are some encouraging leads there.” The president appeared to be staggering under the weight of this new information.
“Guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.” Garin took pity on him and tossed him a pack of Luckies and some matches.
“Smoke ’em if you’ve got em.” The president lit up.
“Thanks. The press would crucify me if they saw me smoking again.”
“I think no one would begrudge you a puff on a moment like this, sir.” The president took a drag.
“I guess it was too much to expect that terrorism died with Osama bin Laden.”
“Yes sir. Terrorism never dies. There are only peaks and troughs.” The president blew out smoke.
“Why would China do this?”
“I admit that it is a dangerous escalation, sir. But let’s consider what we know about them. Firstly, let’s look at their aims. They want to re-absorb Taiwan back into the motherland and resent us selling Taiwan advanced weaponry, as well as our treaties to protection them if China attacks. Secondly, they are an ally of North Korea and want all American troops out of the Koreas. Thirdly, they regard the territory of the seas around China as their own and want to greatly restrict or stop our navies patrolling the area. Fourth, they’re tired of us bleating on about human rights and get the shits whenever we let the Dalai Lama visit the country. In short, they want us out of Asia sir so they can dominate the region once again, as they have done historically.”
The president leaned back in his black leather chair, more thoughtful now, over his initial shock. “Many of our allies want us in Asia as a counterbalance against Chinese power.”
“Agreed, sir. But let’s look at some of China’s other actions. As we know, they have launched anti-satellite missiles against their own satellites. The implication has to be that if they ever go to war with us they can blind our eyes in the sky. We already know they are working on an anti-aircraft carrier missile to destroy our carriers. Meanwhile, they’ve built and launched their own aircraft carriers. They have advanced cyber warfare capabilities. Their hackers are constantly attacking our nodes, testing for weaknesses and searching for information. They are working feverishly on updating all of their military equipment, modernising their armed forces.
“Our various bodies are tracking at least 15,000 known Chinese agents, spies, paid sources and operatives in America, who are trying to steal every technological secret they can get their hands on for their military and their economy. They’ve even tried to recruit non-Chinese to spy for China – with some success, I may add. The Chinese are hoovering up any and all information like a vacuum cleaner.”
The president was surprised by the large number of agents. “Fifteen thousands – still that many?”
“ And that’s just the ones we know about. We know they want to world to replace the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Meanwhile, they hold trillions of our debt. America is becoming dependent on their money to stay afloat. And our human intelligence network in China is very weak.”
“What is your final analysis, then?”
“It’s simple, sir. They are building their strength to challenge and inevitably replace us as the world’s dominant power. And if you look at history, from the rise of France and Great Britain and Germany to our own rise, no great power has assumed its place on the world stage without some kind of major conflict. Throw in dwindling oil supplies, a strong nationalist sentiment in China, the rise in power of its generals and continued competition for scarce resources around the globe and it’s a recipe for conflict. It’s a question of not if, but when.”
“God … I need another cigarette after that.”
“But I have some good news, sir. I don’t believe now is the time. Despite everything, the Chinese economy and armed forces are still inferior to our own. I would think such a conflict is 10-20 years away. Certainly not within your presidency, sir.” The president laughed grimly. “I suspect that this attack is the work of possibly a rogue group within the Chinese military. Intel – and my hunch – suggests as much. If the Communist Party really wanted to scare us, they’d probably choke their chickens.” The president chuckled again despite himself.
“Choke their chickens? Is that some kind of sex reference, colonel?”
“No. It’s a proverb: choke a chicken to scare a monkey. Attack a lesser target to warn off the bigger one. We’re the monkey. Only someone seems to have bypassed the chicken stage all together. I’m betting it’s a higher-up tired of waiting for our come-uppance. Their military was always more eager for war with us than their politicians. My suspect would be some powerful military guy whose brain has gone AWOL.” The president nodded.
“Hopefully, we’re dealing with a very small number of Chinese operatives who are probably working without state sanction. With any luck, we’ll be able to keep this completely under wraps. No one will read about it for decades.” And maybe they’ll be a convenient fire in the records department, thought Garin. Or a flood. Every document will be destroyed. Computer hard drives will be ruined.
“I hope so. I’ve already got enough problems. My healthcare initiatives are hanging by a thread. I’m still trying to repair the economic damage after the global financial crisis. America has some difficult years ahead.”
“I hear you, sir. My people are working on a file for you on this latest crisis. It will be with you within the hour. I believe you may even be able to enlist the Chinese in helping you stop the attack. They could find out more about this plot.”
“Good thinking. I’ll call as soon as I’ve read the report. I’m not looking forward to that phone call. We already have enough beefs with China over our trade deficit and protectionism and the yuan.” The president paused. “There isn’t a great spirit of co-operation between our two countries, let me tell you. I don’t have a hot phone where I can reach the premier like we had with the Russians.”
“Good luck with your call, Mr President. Meanwhile, I’ll co-ordinate the search from Homeland Security. And I’ll put my top man on the recovery of the weapons.”
“This top man of yours … is he discreet?” The colonel smiled.
“That is one word I wouldn’t use to describe him, sir. But he always gets the job done.”
“Just the one man? You sure you don’t want a small army?”
“He is an army,” smiled Garin. “An army of one, just like in the recruiting ads. But I’ll also be throwing all of Homeland Security’s resources on it, Mr President.”
“Be discreet if you can. I don’t want to see tracer bullets on Time Square. Or news of the plot reaching the press.” The president exhaled. “I want you to report directly to me on this, Garin. I’ll brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Situation Room, find out our options and our readiness against a biological attack. If some of those devices go off this could mean war.” Garin looked at the president, wondering whether he had the gumption to obliterate millions in nuclear retaliation if it came down to it, to pull the trigger on mutual annihilation.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, sir,” said Garin as he stood. “If that is all, I’ll get right to work.”
The president nodded, then returned his attention to papers on his desk. As Garin reached the door the president called out to him.
“You know what day it is in four days, don’t you, colonel?”
“Yes sir. July the 4th. Independence Day.”

Continue the story with The Spartan, out now as an ebook. Then keep reading with the sequel Game Of Killers: The Spartan, available as a paperback and ebook.

Marchenko unsealed the fridge and removed the suspicious device.
“Good thing it didn’t go off in the club,” said Colonel Garin, staring at the metallic canister.
“We’ve got the remote control,” said Marchenko.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be standing so close to this.” Neither man moved back.
“Afraid, American?”
“Only of the clap … so what do you think it is?” Garin asked.
“A weaponised, contagious vectoral agent. A bioweapon.” Marchenko told Garin what Chen had said. Garin flared up.
“It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Screw you Ruskis for this!”
Marchenko appeared offended. “We couldn’t afford to keeping spending billions of dollars on missiles and planes to keep up with you. Bioweaponry was much cheaper. And we were good at it.” Marchenko gestured towards the canister. “I think this is part of Project Rebirth.”
“What in the name of Sputnik is Project Rebirth?”
“The idea was to seed many of these canisters around the US and release them in case of war. I never knew the precise details, but the substance mimics something like the flu. It takes a while before it kills you – several days I think. By the time anyone realises what they’ve got it’s too late.”
“Like SARS. The only effective treatment is right at the beginning.”
“Right. It’s highly infectious. It doesn’t have the transmission problems of other viruses. A cough or a touch … fuck me roughly with a horse’s cock, even close proximity will do it. You’ll pass it on before you know you’re infected. Within hours. And it’s something like 90 per cent fatal. It was tested on Russian political prisoners, some of them vor. First you get the chills, then you start throwing up – a few hours later you start bleeding through your eyes and nose. Then violent sickness, major organ failure and death.”
“What does the rebirth part of Project Rebirth mean?”
“It means that the North American continent would be scoured free of life and a communist rebirth could begin.” Garin’s eyebrows reached for the sky.
“Fuuu-ck!”
Marchenko seemed unimpressed by Garin’s reaction. “What – you didn’t have plans like these of your own? What about your own bioweapon stockpile?”
“We destroyed them, just like the treaty said,” lied Garin.
Marchenko smiled sceptically. “Someone obviously decided to keep some canisters lying around in case you didn’t live up to your end of the bargain.”
“Wipe that smirk off your face. We’re in a world of shit here.” Garin had seen enough.
“Keep it and the control here. I’ll have some of my men pick it up. And keep your goons out of the basement.” Garin paused. “I need a final favour.”
“Tell me what it is and I’ll consider the price.”
“I know you want revenge. I know people are going to die. But I need a week to try and stop this. After that it won’t matter.” Marchenko appeared thoughtful.
“The vor are hot-headed and angry. They will want to strike right away.” Garin waved a hand.
“Tell them to wait. One crisis at a time.”
“We will need time to plan anyway. I can give you a week.”
“I have your word – as a vor?” said Garin, repeating what the dead Chen had asked.
“Very funny. Yes.”  Garin put his hand on Marchenko’s arm in a comradely gesture. It was an expression of thanks, not only for capturing the device and the agent but for giving Garin time to try to stop them madness.
“Thank you, comrade.” He started to walk out of the basement. “Now I just have to tell the president America is under attack.”

Continue the story by reading The Spartan, out now as an ebook. Then follow the story in the sequel, Game Of Killers: The Spartan, out now as a paperback and ebook.

 

I shouldn’t be doing this, thought Colonel Garin, as he walked the grim streets of New York.

As Homeland Security’s top troubleshooter, with extensive connections to the army and its special forces programs, there were a thousand other pressing things that demanded his highly-paid attention.

After all, America was still reeling from the aftermath of the plague delivered by China’s canister conspiracists. The worst of it was now over, the noxious spread of the plague on US soil halted, but the American death toll was in the unknown millions. Just about everyone knew of someone who had died. The country was one race, color and creed united under fear.

And violence.

America’s cities and suburbs had become war zones, its suspicious, scared residents becoming paranoid and hostile after rumours that those taken to “quarantine zones” were never making it out alive. Thus once-compliant keyboard warriors and soccer moms were fighting the police tooth and nail in the streets. Molotov cocktails crashed against plastic shields. Riots that made Watts and LA look like bonfire parties were breaking out in all the major cities. Many areas had become or remained W.R.O.L – Without Rule Of Law.

If truth was the first casualty of conflict, then innocent civilians were the second, with law enforcement officials coming a close third.

Many police officers died.

Looters roamed the streets. Snipers were exercising their Second Amendment rights by shooting down news helicopters.

Up was down. Black was white. One and one made three.

The only disaster missing was a Sharknado.

“It’s chaos out there,” Garin said aloud, causing nervous citizens on the streets of once-fair Gotham to avoid him.

The authorities were doing the best that they could, but the United States hadn’t experienced this level of disruption and paranoia since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which killed more than 3 per cent of the world.

The main difference now in the current age of entitlement was that, half the country was heavily armed and had access to the still-functioning internet, listening to every crank and tin-foil hatter claiming that the government had released the plague on purpose. Some citizens had even refused to take the cure, holding up siege-style in their houses, thoughtfully infecting all their loved ones in the process.

Many called for war against China for its part in the plague – sometime just had to take a major hit after the death toll in America. The only reason that the stealth bombers weren’t already fuelled and dropping the Mother Of All Bombs on Beijing was because China had suffered just like America, and the canister conspiracists had been rogue agents rather than state-sanctioned operatives.

So, in fact, the only folks happy with the situation – apart from the one per cent of the population who were psychopaths, who thought all their Christmases had come at once and were busy bringing their darkest fantasies to life – were the doomsday preppers eating tinned meat and hoarding toilet paper in their bunkers. They could finally point one Nomex-gloved finger at the liberal media and say “I told you so”, their paranoid choice of lifestyle vindicated at last.

The country had had, to use the Chinese phrase, to chi ku: to eat bitterness. And after pampered years as the world’s lone superpower, the United States neither had the taste or the stomach for much bitterness.

Then there was the rest of the world. The world had changed. And not for the better.

The global economy was in the crapper: to quote Garin’s son Robbie, the craven investment banker and economic hit man, fruit of his loins if not his soul, “Wall Street can’t make any money in this environment!”

“Damn punk kid,” Garin muttered.

China was holding Japan’s ships vessels hostage for “reparation for World War II crimes”, while ramming Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea. It was also taking advantage of the world’s distracted state to build what was being called “The Great Wall Of Sand” in the South China Sea, claiming as much territory as it could despite the objections of its neighbors. If the world had had any lingering doubts about how China posed an existential threat to the current global order, such doubts had now vanished.

Meanwhile, Japan was making ominous noises about rewriting its post-World War II constitution so it could re-arm itself. It had rushed through bills allowing its soldiers to fight overseas for the first time since 1945. Japanese and Chinese fighter jets were flying so close to each other in the South China Sea they were colliding mid-air.

North Korea sensed weakness and was launching probing attacks on its border with South Korea.

Africa was divided along tribal, religious and economic lines.

The Germans ran Europe again.

The Middle East was its usual mess.

Taiwan remained occupied by the People’s Liberation Army. Hong Kong? Well, everyone knew what had happened there.

Meanwhile, the UN was left holding its various multinational dicks in its hands.

Among its allies, America’s impotence in allowing the tragedy to happen was noted, its status as the world’s sheriff in question.

More and more people were saying the world had gone from a unipolar world dominated by Uncle Sam to an unstable bipolar world where it had to share power with China: a development viewed with suspicion and fear by many.

In the face of all this, Washington was paralysed with indecision, partisanship and horror. Barbed wire was everywhere in the homeland, like some Martian weed, as if to suggest that the country was undergoing some horrible transformation.

In short, it was a darker world. A darker America.

Garin watched as a homeless man screamed incoherently to himself on a street corner, trying to ward off some invisible evil.

“I know how you feel, pal,” Garin thought.

He was reminded of a quote from his more religious days: “Outside the church there is no salvation.” But Garin was not about to get down on his knees and start reciting the 23rd Psalm. He wouldn’t cry or scream or pray to the Lord, the Sky Father or even Oprah. That was not his way. That was the not the special forces way.

And as they liked to say in special forces: the only easy day was yesterday.

Game Of Killers: The Spartan is available now on Amazon as a hardback or ebook. You can also see how we got here in the first novel, The Spartan.

Chen loved his country. He loved China’s glittering past, its refusal to bend down to the great powers, its promise of a better future.
But if there was one thing Chen didn’t love, it was his job.
That’s because he was a wumao.
And he was one of the best.
Chen had been compelled to become one of China’s wumao – one of its anonymous, government-sponsored army of internet commentators and trolls – when his father in China had been found guilty of a minor indiscretion. The indiscretion itself, which Chen didn’t like to think about, was minor enough that it didn’t land his father in jail … but significant enough that it required some act of contrition on the part of his family.
It had been suggested that Chen, educated at Harvard and earning a six-figure salary on Wall Street, may be able to pay off his debt. There was desperate need for a wumao who could successfully promote China’s interests on the internet in the West. The domestic wumao market in China was already covered – what was needed was someone who was savvy enough about the West to successfully comment on Western websites without automatically being accused of being a wumao.
Because to be caught acting as a wumao was the worst thing that could befall one.
Thus Chen had been called back to one of China’s more distant provinces to work in a dank computer room with the other pro-government commentators. His skill as a wumao meant that he was acting No.2 of his department. He was currently writing a style guide for his fellow wumao on how to work in the West.
It wasn’t his colleagues’ fault that they weren’t educated in the West like him and didn’t fully understand how “freedom of the press” worked there. They didn’t understand the syntax, the grammar, the cultural references, the idioms of the West. That was why many were caught out when commenting on newspaper or magazine websites, sometimes by Chinese students overseas themselves. Their clumsy approach – for instance, getting a Simpsons reference or a sports observation wrong – often led for them to be outed as wumao. Under Chen’s guidance, they were doing better … but there was still much work to be done.
One of the problems Chen had with his job was the pay. Indeed, the saying about wumao being the 50 Cent Army – that they were paid 50 Chinese cents a post – wasn’t exactly far from the mark. It was certainly a lot less than what he earned on Wall Street. Plus where he was sent had no decent nightclubs, cafes or restaurants … another hardship he had to silently endure.
Then there was the work, which he felt was slightly beneath him. He wasn’t matching wits with the great minds of the West on the internet sites. Their great minds were busy occupied elsewhere, perhaps writing the article themselves above the comment section boxes. Or they had better things to do than comment on internet sites. His adversaries were overwhelmingly men of middling education with too much time on their hands and too much fondness for their own opinions. “Keyboard warriors”.
That wasn’t to say that the work itself didn’t have its rewards. Chen liked to pride himself in the skill he brought to the task. Educated in the West, he understood the nuances of the culture. He understood that, although the West often complained about Communist Party propaganda, Westerners existed in a world of propaganda of their own. Only the West’s propaganda was more invisible, more subtle … and more professional. It had entire multi-billion-dollar industries devoted to selling messages without the targets knowing they were being targeted. What was called wumao in the East could just have easily have been called “PR” in the West.
Indeed, two of the books he encouraged his staff to read were Confessions Of An Advertising Man and How To Win Friends And Influence People, both fine guides on how to win over the Western mind.
(Chen sometimes wondered if it might not be more effective to outsource the entire wumao department to the West. The cost could be greater, but the results more convincing. And there would be many, many companies in the West that would accept such work.)
Working as a wumao in the West required a different mindset than, say, working in China. One had to seem more “friendly” … more flexible. More ready to abandon an argument than risk being seen as “uncool”.
In Chen’s mind, comments were to be kept short and to the point. Upper case was never to be used, upper case being the province of the unbalanced. One should never be the first to post on any given subject – being overkeen was suspicious.
Comments should never be too rigid or dogmatic … or too numerous. Sometimes he had to tap a colleague on the shoulder to step away from a computer and a conversation when they became too angry and risked being identified.
In short, their comments were supposed to seem like they came from Westerners themselves.
Chen often used a Western-sounding handle – he had several, in fact. He knew when to back off, when to respond to an argument with a jokey image or meme. Humour was very effective in winning an internet argument. And it was something Westerners didn’t expect from the “humourless” Chinese.
They all had certain key points they were supposed to push. Fortunately, China had a great story to sell. What other country had lifted so many millions out of poverty in so short a time? What other country had given the world gunpowder, porcelain and printing? What country came to the world’s rescue during the 2008 global economic meltdown? China had many, many positive aspects one could casually drop into a net conversion.
Certainly his department had an easier job of it than their Russian counterparts.
But Chen’s true enemy wasn’t the West: he had liked living there and thought China could forge a working relationship with it. And China and America were so interlinked they were calling the combined being “Chimerica”.
No, his true enemy was his boss.
Because he wanted to return to his former life as a banker. And he had no idea how long his penance was supposed to be.
Thus he had begun his own campaign. He would submit small errors in his entries. Perhaps a comment might not be fervent or patriotic enough. Or a joke might seem too Western. Perhaps he would go soft when he should go hard, go slow when he needed to address a trending topic immediately. Perhaps he would even allow himself to be unmasked online as a wumao. As they would say in the West … “whoops”.
He would be moved on.
And finally he would be free.

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