Ashes of the Dragon: A Protect and Survive Tale

Dear Readers,

I know it's been a long time since I last updated a P&S thread. Well, I had a stroke of inspiration yesterday evening and decided to start in on this little one-off. It's set in and around the locale that I've been living in here in China for the last two years. The events portrayed here regarding the Second Sino-Japanese war are fictionalized and did not occur here in Feixi, although they did occur elsewhere during China's eight year fight against the Japanese Empire. I neither condone nor endorse such actions nor do I take pleasure in writing about them. However, they do shine an important light on the interconnected nature of life and death in the Protect and Survive world. If any offense is taken, please accept my deepest apologies in advance.

With that being said, I invite you to take a short trip through the populous and still as yet scarred and unhealed world of China circa 1984. As the bombs fall, one woman's thoughts drift back not to her family, but to the war that came before. This is Hefei, this is Anhui, this is China. This is Protect and Survive.

© Paul Goodfellow and After the Scifi Apocalypse, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Goodfellow and After the Scifi Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

When people are no longer afraid of death, there is no use threatening them with it - Chinese Proverb

Zipengshan Mountain, Hefei, Anhui Province, People’s Republic of China
~12:30AM Beijing Standard Time
February 21, 1984

It was early that morning that the “old” woman had taken to the roads. She called herself old even though she was not quite sixty and still had many decades of life left in her. But she felt old after spending so much of her life seeing death. The panic in the streets was palpable. CCTV and local Hefei radio had been broadcasting up to the minute updates on the crisis in Central Europe. When the first bomb went off in West Germany, her daughter Wang Xue asked her to leave her small apartment in the center of the city and come with her and her teenaged children to her husband’s family farm outside of Lu’an. When she refused and told her that she was going to Zipengshan Mountain instead, Xue wept and begged her mother to reconsider. Hefei was a provincial capital and a likely target for Soviet missiles, Xue told her. She had seen enough of war in her lifetime, she told her daughter, and if it came to that she did not want to live to see what came after. She wanted to spend the last few hours of her life at the last remains of the temple she attended as a child. It was where father died, she thought to herself, and if I am to die I would rather die alongside his bones.

So it was that on the day of the missiles and fire, the old woman took the last few remaining busses out to the edge of the city. Where the bus lines stopped, she hitched a ride with a farmer on his tractor and made her way to the base of Zipengshan Mountain. They spoke of many things: Her childhood in Feixi, his farm at the base of the mountain, and their lives up to that point. The farmer was older, though not as old as the old woman, but old enough to remember the war.

“The Japanese came pouring out of the city. Baba and I watched the columns of soldiers and tanks rolling down the road in the direction of Lu’an. When they passed by and sneered at us, I hid behind him like he told me to,” the older farmer said.

“Did he live?” The old woman asked.

“Yes. He was friends with one of the local Communist militia officers and was able to get me and my mother to safety. He spent the rest of the war helping to feed and house wounded soldiers who fought the Japanese imperialists. After ’49 he ended up as a village party chief’s assistant. He just died a year ago,” the older farmer explained.

“That’s good,” she replied.

“And you? What of your family?” The farmer asked.

“My mother died of typhus when I was very young and my father never remarried. We lived with my grandmother in Feixi until the Japanese came. On that day, the day you hid behind your father, my father, grandmother, and I fled to the Buddhist temple at the summit of the mountain. The other villagers were also there when the soldiers arrived,” the old woman responded.

The farmer nodded his head. He lived in Feixi all his life. He knew the stories and said no more.

In the early afternoon they arrived at the foot of Zipengshan Mountain. She stepped off the tractor and smiled and waved to the old farmer.

“Are you sure you want to be out here comrade? If things go south and Cao Cao arrives I don’t know if I can return to find you,” the farmer said to her in a pleading tone. [1]

“War is Death’s feast. If I am to be on the menu, then so be it,” the old woman responded. [2]

The farmer nodded and waved to her one last time as he started his tractor up and turned it around, the engine making a desperate chugging noise as it rolled towards Feixi and the old farmer’s home. She turned her back on him and made her way towards the ruins of the temple steps and the path towards the mountain’s summit.
As she approached the ruins of the temple entrance her mind drifted back to that day in 1938.

It was June, she thought to herself, the weather was sweltering and hot, not like the biting cold of today. The radio in the village had told us that the imperialist armies were advancing out of Anqing, Hefei, and Wuhu. Baba had gone to Mama’s grave that morning to sweep it one last time before we left. He dropped to his knees and begged forgiveness for leaving her body to be marched upon by unworthy feet. Nainai [grandmother] packed our clothing and what food we had. I watched father cry for what he had lost.

She slowly approached the shattered remnants of the temple entrance. She remembered when the temple was torn down. The imperialists had not had the fortitude to do so, although they had damaged it greatly during the war. Instead, it had been the Red Guards on the orders of a college student in 1968, who finished what the invaders had started. She looked at the broken and shattered stone steps and could see where sledgehammers had been taken to them. Broken wooden pillars lay on either side of the steps; faded red paint was chipped unevenly across their splintered forms. One of the pillars still had a knotted rope wrapped around its center, its weathered materials covered in moss.

The old woman made her way up the mountain slowly, taking in the sights and smells of late winter. The ground still had a light covering of snow, although it was lighter than usual. When I was a child this mountain would be blanketed in snow at this time of the year. The forest always took on a calming atmosphere as snow fell on the trees in absolute silence. I could hear the snow falling to the ground off the bare tree branches. Pity that isn’t the case today, she thought.

She trudged through heavier snowfall as she walked higher. She could see footsteps in the snow, a few here and there. The clouds up above had not decided to grace her and the other visitors today with snow, so she could follow their steps all the way to the top. She stopped to look at an old tree, its large trunk misshapen. It looked as if a large chunk had been taken out of it.

They started firing their tank cannons mid-way up the mountain, she thought. We could hear them yelling in Japanese and their accented Mandarin to surrender and come down the mountain. We would be treated fairly they said, the old woman remembered.

Just then, as she pondered the lopsided tree trunk, the loud whistling and rumbling of jet engines roared overhead. A pair of fighters raced by overhead and was followed by a loud sonic boom as they broke the sound barrier.

“Damn them for interrupting my thoughts,” she muttered under her breath.

The old woman continued her slow march up the mountain. She paused every so often to look over her shoulder at the settling dusk and the illuminated form of Hefei in the distance. She took her time, walking slowly even though the winter chill was almost too much for her. Her daughter would have never let her come out here alone on any other day, she thought. But on this day, at this hour, there was little that mattered to anyone except self-preservation. Even in China where family was valued above all else, with extinction hovering just beyond every breath of air taken the old rules no longer applied.

She finally reached the summit of the mountain as dusk turned to night. The monk’s quarters, prayer halls, and small shrines were all just as she remembered them to be. Broken and burned, just as I left them, she thought. She could see off in the distance the last old building left on the summit. It was a small prayer shrine for the Buddha. Surrounding it was a crowd of at least fifty. They were mostly old women; a scant few middle aged women were up there as well. Although there was little chance that they had children. No Chinese mother would come to a temple like this without her children in tow, she thought sarcastically.

The old woman sat down next to the burned out ruin of a large prayer hall. She could see the scorched remains of a Buddha’s cross-legged feet.

Baba and Nainai and I backed away from the crowd of villagers as the Japanese crested the summit and began to march towards us. We were near the back of the throng. The shouts were almost inaudible as the screams and pitiful wails echoed off the aged wooden structures. The demands for the Communist rebels to surrender were met with continued pleading from us. My father stayed silent. He was not a sympathizer to the Communists or the Guomindang. He was a simple farmer, a man who had lost too much to the world to care which leader of which government sat in judgement over him. The only person who he cared to give the power of judgement over his life to had died long before the Japanese, or the Communists or the Guomindang came.

In the distance, the muted sounds of prayer began to intensify. One old woman who appeared to be in her late nineties had fallen to her knees, she prostrated herself before the small prayer shrine.

“Lord Buddha have mercy, Lord God have mercy. Save my family from the fires and grant us forgiveness!”

The old woman shook her head at the sight of the aged woman bowing.

There is no prayer that can invoke God or the Buddha to save us from what is to come, she thought.

She stood up from where she sat and walked around to what once was the back of the prayer hall. A single wooden pillar stood above the ruins of the hall, broken two thirds of the way up in a diagonal split. Bullet holes adorned the shattered pillar.

The Japanese soldiers advanced, a few of them made their way into the crowd and began to pull the men and the young boys to the front of the crowd. The teenagers and younger men under thirty-five were made to kneel before the Japanese officers.

“Who among you sympathizes with the Red Bandits?” One officer asked.

“Tell us who fights for them and we will let you live. Refuse to speak and face the consequences,” another officer yelled.

Her father was in his late forties so he was passed over by the Japanese soldiers. He looked too frail to be a soldier anyways. His gnarled hands were too weathered to hold a rifle and his eyes too filled with sorrow to show a spark of resistance. He was harmless.

The crowd of women and children began to wail, begging for mercy from them for their husbands and sons.

The old woman heard another wave of sonic booms overhead. The sound of fighters and bombers overhead filled her ears and disrupted her recollections. In the far distance, she could hear what sounded like an air raid siren beginning to wail, its sharp tones echoing off the mountainside. The frantic sounds of the crowd’s prayers became strained, cries of mercy were shouted louder at the statue, and some women turned their faces upwards and yelled to the heavens.

“If none of you will speak then you will suffer the consequences of your silence,” the commanding officer said.

A boy of no more than fifteen years was grabbed by his shirt collar by the officer and tossed to the ground. The commander pulled his pistol out and shot him. Her father pulled her close as the crowd began to scream louder.

“Tell me who sympathizes with the Communists right now or I will kill another,” the commander yelled at the men. She unshielded her teenage eyes from her father’s sweat drenched cotton shirt to peer out. She could see the men on the ground pressing their faces into the ground, begging mercy, repeating over and over again that they were not Communists.

The officer grew agitated and grabbed another man, a young local farmer nicknamed XiaoPengYou, little friend, for his diminutive figure and his friendly attitude towards everyone in Feixi. He had never thought a political thought in his life, she thought, as he too was shot.

A loud booming noise shook her from her remembrance. She turned her head in the direction of the city and saw in the evening darkness explosions over the city. Anti-air guns began to throw increasing amounts of ammunition towards the sky. Search lights reached out in every direction. How did the Soviets manage to get this far south, the old woman thought to herself. She looked back to the crowd and saw a middle aged woman, around forty years old, drop to her knees.

“Lord God please save us!” The younger woman bellowed in a deeper tone of voice than the old woman thought her possible of.

Hypocrite, she thought to herself. Fifteen years ago you would have been calling for the reeducation of these women for traditionalist, anti-Mao Zedong thought. Now you pray with them and beg forgiveness. Death makes hypocrites and believers out of all of us.

The old woman walked slowly towards the crowd of women. Rather than joining them, she made her way through them and walked to a stone ledge where the mountain dropped off into the valley below. From here she had a view of the entire valley and Hefei in the distance. She watched as the search lights and anti-air cannons stretched out from the center of the city towards the heavens. The cloud cover was illuminated by the flood lamps and cannon fire. It almost looks like Chinese New Year celebrations, she thought. The irony was that New Year had just ended two days before on February 19. Not two days ago there had been fireworks displays in the sky. Even though the government had ordered all of the major cities not to light off fireworks for fear that it would frighten the already tense anti-air gunners and make them discharge their weapons. The Year of the Rat, fitting form for the end of the world, she thought to herself.

The Japanese officer continued to execute the men. One by one they were pulled from their kneeling, prostrated position on the ground and shot. Eventually the officer got sick of shooting them himself. He motioned for one of his soldiers to shoot them. Within minutes all of them were dead. The crowd screamed and begged and began to move backwards. Like liquid flowing over rock, the crowd spread out and tried to get distance from one another. A single shot was fired into the mass of flesh. A bloodcurdling scream came out as a woman dropped to the ground.

In that instance, the old woman saw a fireball falling from the clouds. A bomber or fighter, she was not sure if it was Chinese or Soviet fell to Earth trailing wreckage and smoke as it plummeted towards the city below. The shrill droning of the air raid sirens grew louder in her ears as the sirens in Feixi started up. The fighting must be getting closer, she thought to herself. The booms of anti-air cannons grew in intensity as she looked down the cliff. It was as far a fall as she remembered it to be. Her father had always warned her when she was a little girl to stay away from the ledges. Liu Yue, you must be careful near the ledges. If you fall and die, I do not know what I would do, she remembered her father telling her in his lecturing tone. Another fireball fell from the sky. As it fell she could see the fuselage engulfed in flames clearly. It’s getting much closer. The time must be drawing nearer Baba, she thought.

The firing began. The rhythmic chattering of machine gun fire was mixed in with screams and yelling. They fell in groups of three and four. She and her father dropped to the ground, hiding their faces in the dirt. Nainai had crouched down as well and shuffled behind the wall of a small shrine. She saw two Japanese soldiers making their way around the crowd towards the shrine. The last she saw of her grandmother was a look of shock and horror as the imperialists saw her. Yue could not watch.
Her father tried desperately to keep her from standing up as the crowd thinned. The dead outnumbered the living. The smell of gunpowder and blood hung thick in the air, mixed in with screams and pleas for mercy and the sounds of the dying and the dead. Her father whispered to her to play dead as the Japanese made their way through the dead, finishing off all those who were still clinging to life. When they reached Yue and her father, they were poking the bodies with their rifles. One of the soldiers stepped on her fathers’ gnarled left hand that had been shattered in a farming accident when she was a very small child. He let out an involuntary groan of pain. They lifted him to his feet.

“Looks like we’ve got a live one,” the soldier said in Mandarin. Her father could only look down at his feet.

“Where are the Communists now, eh? Where are your peasant rebels? No one’s here to save you. Tell us where the Red Bandits are hiding and we’ll let you live,” the soldier demanded.

The officer walked over and grabbed my father. He roughly shoved him against the wall of a small prayer shrine. A statue of the Buddha looked out at the world around it, the painted eyes showing no emotion. The officer moved him in front of the statue and thrust his pistol in my father’s face.

“You peasants are all the same. You know the truth and yet you refuse to tell us. Why would you lay your life down for those bandits? They don’t care about you,” the officer said as he tightened his grip on my father’s collar.

“I don’t know where they are. I’m a farmer. My wife is dead. My mother is dead. Now my daughter is dead too. If I knew I would have already told you. I have nothing left to live for. Do what you want,” my father replied.

“Then that’s what we’ll do I suppose,” the officer replied. My eyes were closed when I heard the pistol go off one last time and a loud thud echoed in my ears. It was a sound that I would hear for as I lived. The thumping of his lifeless body against the foot of that prayer shrine would wake me up year after year, long after the war and long after I was safe. He sacrificed himself for me to live. In that moment there was nothing more that I could do but silently lay there, holding my breath, and praying that they would not notice me.

Afterwards, I heard the commanding officer barking orders in Japanese that I could not understand. Within moments I saw them lighting torches and beginning to burn the temple structures. The heat from the fires danced across my face. I waited until I heard them leave to stand up. I went to my father and sat down next to his body and wept. The smell of blood mixed with smoke as I watched the temple structures burned to cinders.

Another thunderous boom went off in the distance, it was distant but seemed close. A sickly yellow-orange-red glow filled the night sky. She looked in the direction of Hefei as the lights of the city seemed to flick off in an instant, as if God himself threw all the light switches at once. The old woman looked back to the crowd of women at in front of the shrine as they all seemed to realize at once that there was no salvation. Their wails became more frantic, plaintive. They no longer called to the heavens to save their families. They called to the heavens to save them from what was coming. They had not yet realized what the old woman had come to understand so long ago: When the time is near, God will not save you.

I sat in front of the statue weeping, my father’s bloody corpse lay lifeless at my knees, for what must have been hours, or at least it seemed hours to my traumatized mind. The temple buildings burned to cinders and ash around me, the smell of centuries of incense smoke collected in the rafters and wood of the structures gave the funeral pyre an almost spiritual element. The monks had not been there to watch their temple burn to ash. In that instance, I became holy, the anointed survivor who would watch as my family died and my world burned to ash. I would carry their desperate pleas and cries for mercy in my mind for the rest of my life, along with the smell of burning wood, old incense, and the coppery odor of spilled blood. It was a funeral pyre for a village that had earned no such honor.

The old woman made her way to the crowd of women who stood, mouths agape at the sight of their city turning dark. They knew what was to come next, but none of them dared to say what. She pushed her way to the front of the crowd, past the middle aged hypocrite, past the kowtowing ancient woman, and stood in front of the Buddha statue. Its lifeless eyes still looked out at them. She could see faintly where her father’s blood had stained its face. She reached out and touched the old blood stain. She felt connected to her Baba. In that instance, all of the cares and worries of the world seemed to evaporate. She had come back to die with them, as she should have all those years ago. Their spirits still lingered in this place.

The old woman looked out at the crowd and saw the faces of her village, the men and women who had died here. XiaoPengYou, her father, the baker, her grandmother, they had all waited for her to come back and die with them at her designated time. The crowd of women seemed to evaporate into nothingness and she was again with them.
In the distance a white flash filled the sky. The women screamed out in horror, some of them in agony as their sight was taken from them by the thermonuclear blast that leveled the center of Hefei within a second. The old woman’s eyes were rolled back into her head as she felt the presence of her father’s spirit touching her. Come now Liu Yue, it’s time to go, she heard him whisper to her. XiaoPengYou has invited us over, he wants to ask me for permission to marry you. It was everything she had longed to hear since they had left her. Her years of loneliness and pain were about to end.

A single bright white streak rushed to Earth, one of a number of warheads that the Soviet Union launched at China that day. It was an unfortunate fluke that the targeting computer onboard the missile had misread its destination coordinates. The warhead fell on the small village of Feixi with the explosive power of three hundred kilotons. The older farmer was vaporized instantly; his last thoughts were of his father who he knew had abandoned the people of the village to their deaths at the hands of the Japanese all those years ago. His guilt over that had caused him much pain in his later life.

As the warhead detonated and the world around them turned white, the women let out one final scream, a plea for mercy, for salvation, for life. But for Liu Yue, the old woman who had come to Zipengshan to die, she let out no such scream. She smiled as the white flash filled her eyes and she saw the inside of her skull.

“I’m home Baba,” she said aloud as she rested her hand on the Buddha’s face. In that instance, Liu Yue ceased to exist as her body was blown apart by the blast wave of the nuclear warhead along with all others on top of Zipengshan mountain. The statue of the Buddha went up in smoke alongside the last remaining bits and pieces of the old temple. What man had started, man finished.

All of life is a dream walking, all of death is a going home - Chinese Proverb

[1] In Chinese, the saying for "Speak of the Devil" is, "Shuo Cao Cao, Cao Cao dao," a reference to the Chinese general Cao Cao who fought during the Three Kingdoms era, dramatized by the Chinese novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." The literal translation for the Chinese is, "Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao will come/appear." So I took a little creative liberty with the saying and used it as such.
[2] A reference to an old Chinese saying from the Three Kingdoms period, I believe.
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Very good. I find the juxtaposition of the Japanese with the coming atomic fire quite fitting, as well as the sudden religiousness that the "hypocrites" have suddenly rediscovered.
Very good. I find the juxtaposition of the Japanese with the coming atomic fire quite fitting, as well as the sudden religiousness that the "hypocrites" have suddenly rediscovered.

Thanks! I hope that the juxtaposition wasn't too ham-handed in its execution.
Hey Everyone,

I'm back! Over the past six months I've been trying to think of ways to return back to China in P&S since the series has more or less dried up as of recently. I was hoping to get some feedback from everyone whether or not I should consider turning this one-off into a small part of a larger China-centered narrative? I'm also trying to get back into writing Shelter from the Storm, my Dutch Harbor P&S story as well. But, since China is basically untouched territory for P&S it might prove to be a more fruitful narrative exploration.

Any thoughts on turning this into part of a China P&S tale?
Sounds great, I may be able to help a bit, lived in Shanghai for four years and Chengdu for a half. Anything you need.
Sounds great, I may be able to help a bit, lived in Shanghai for four years and Chengdu for a half. Anything you need.

That's great! I spent two years in Hefei and traveled around Anhui pretty extensively. I'd enjoy getting another perspective on what China's experience would have been during the '84 War and do some collaboration if possible.
Hey Everyone,

Here's the basic description for the new TL, Ashes of the Dragon, the new P&S TL set in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Feedback is welcomed, as are any ideas for how to develop this out into it's own larger narrative about East Asia's experiences in the 1984 War.

Name of the Timeline: Ashes of the Dragon

Perspective: Mainland China (PRC), Hong Kong (UK), Macau (Portugal) [Beijing, Shanghai, Sino-Afghan Border, Sino-Mongolian Border, Sino-Soviet Border, Sino-Vietnamese Border, etc.)

Short Description: The People's Republic of China has been preparing for the possibility of global thermonuclear exchange since the early 1960's. In the nearly ten years since the death of the country's founder, Mao Zedong, reformist elements in the government lead by Deng Xiaoping have slowly opened the country up. Foreign companies have opened up factories in Special Economic Zones around Guangzhou, Shanghai, and elsewhere. Money is starting to make its way into the hands of a small, but growing Chinese middle class. Border conflicts with Vietnam, Mongolia, and the Soviet Union continue to simmer, while the PLA continues to supply arms and training to the Afghan Mujahedin in their struggle against the Soviet backed Afghan government and their Soviet allies.

As international tensions increase in 1983 and into 1984, government and military leaders begin to plan for the increasing possibility that East-West tensions will spiral out of control. Stuck between the Warsaw Pact and America's Asian allies, the PRC walks an increasingly thin rope between the two. Will it manage to survive the conflict between East and West, or will it fall victim to a foreign war like its predecessor, the Guomindang-lead Republic of China?

Residents in British-controlled Hong Kong and the New Territories and Portuguese-controlled Macau are in an even more precarious situation. Discussions were set to begin in April 1984 with respect to the end of the British lease on Hong Kong in 1997. Additional discussions were set to begin at some point with the Portuguese government regarding the transference of administrative authority over Macau. Will their citizens find themselves among the possible victims of any war, or will the two territories emerge from the war comparatively in tact? What role will they play in any post-war world?
Hey Everyone,

Here's my incomplete target list for Eastern and coastal China. I'd appreciate any input. Please note, this is an incomplete target list and does not include inland and Western China, nor PLA military bases.


Urban/Civilian Targets:
1) Beijing: Capital city of the People's Republic of China. Location of the People's Congress, Politburo, Ministry of Defense, and headquarters of the Beijing Military Region(People's Liberation Army/PLA). Largest city by population in Mainland China.
2) Shijiazhuang: Capital of Hebei Province. Steel and heavy industry. Secondary rail hub for northern China.

3) Shenyang: Heavy Industrial hub for defense, railroad and transportation hub. Headquarters of Shenyang Military Region(PLA).
4) Changchun: Heavy industry. Headquarters of the 16th Group Army.
5) Meihekou: Headquarters, 4th Armored Division.
6) Jinzhou: Headquarters 39th and 40th Group Armies.
7) Qingdao: Industrial city, main shipyards for the People's Liberation Army-Navy, main port for the PLA-N, sub-headquarters for Northern Theater Command attached to Shenyang.
8) Tianjin: Shipyards and dry docks for the PLA-N. Newly established Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for foreign investment.
9) Ji'nan: Sub-provincial transport hub for Shandong Province.
10) Shanghai: Second largest city of the People's Republic of China. Industrial hub for central China. Hub for foreign investment outside of the SEZ's. Shipbuilding and dry docks for commercial fleet, PLA-N.
11) Nanjing: Headquarters for the Nanjing Military Region covering central China. Light industry, textiles, and transportation hub. Capital of Jiangsu Province.
12) Hefei: Capital of Anhui Province. Transportation hub for Anhui, Hubei, and Jiangxi Provinces.
13) Ningbo: Sub-provincial city. Port of Ningbo services the PLA-N on its East China Sea deployments.
14) Fuzhou: Capital of Fujian Province. Large port that services the PLA-N
15) Nanchang: Capital of Jiangxi Province. Developing industrial center. Provincial transportation hub for Jiangxi Province.
16) Guangzhou: Largest city in southern China. Headquarters for the Guangzhou Military Region. Center of industry for south China, including steel, car manufacturing, aircraft, and other defense-related industries.
17) Shenzhen: Center of foreign investment and first Special Economic Zone established.
18) Nanning: Capital of Guangxi Autonomous Region. Transportation hub for Guangxi AR.
19) Haikou: Capital of Hainan Special Administrative District (Guangdong Province).
20) Wuhan: Headquarters for the Wuhan Military Region.
21) Changsha: Capital of Hunan Province. Regional transportation hub.

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© Paul Goodfellow and After the Scifi Apocalypse, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Goodfellow and After the Scifi Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ashes of the Dragon

A Joint Publication of the Republic of China-Taiwan/Fujian, the Hong Kong Recovery Administration, and the Hong Kong University School of Humanity’s “1984: Crisis and Conflict” Research Project.

Hong Kong University

Kowloon, New Territories

Republic of Hong Kong

Confederation of the Pearl River

June 13, 2016

The 1984 Soviet-American War, known in mainland China as Deng’s Folly, or the Day of Ruin, is the single most destructive conflict in Chinese history. In terms of overall lives lost, it surpasses all of the wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries put together. More acreage per kilometer was destroyed than the Imperial Japanese Army or the various armies during the warlord era ever put to the torch. More cities were lost than were put to the torch during the Mongol invasion. More Chinese lives were lost than in every major war in China’s six thousand years of history put together. Between the beginning of the war on February 17, 1984 through the February 21st nuclear exchange and the year that followed, it is estimated that some four hundred million people perished in the fighting, the nuclear exchange, the radioactive fallout, and the international famine that followed. By the end of the decade, the country’s population had decreased further to an estimated 300 million where it has remained ever since.

China entered the 1980s as a developing country on its way towards a bright future. After the insanity of Chairman Mao Zedong, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, and Gang of Four, the country’s socio-political waters seemed to be flat and calm by comparison. Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the country was opening itself up to foreign investment. It was inviting Westerners to come back and teach the country not just how to build factories, but also how to speak English, German, and Italian. A small, but growing middle class was emerging in and around cities like Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Shanghai. The country had passed through the turbulent rapids of the Mao years into the calm waters of the Deng years where it was hoped that they would not only normalize relations with the outside world, but normalize their own country as well.

China’s experience of nuclear war occurred, ironically, during the night of February 21st-22nd. No one in the country had gone to bed that night after word reached CCTV broadcasting headquarters in Beijing at 9PM Beijing time of the Kassel explosion. Fighting along the Sino-Soviet border had been going on for roughly the same amount of time as the NATO-Warsaw Pact fighting. Along the Sino-Soviet, Sino-Mongolian, Sino-Vietnamese, and Sino-Afghan borders the forces of the People’s Liberation Army fought a numerically inferior, yet technologically superior Soviet Red Army that had been preparing for decades for the final showdown between the two greatest socialist powers on Earth. Millions of PLA and Red Army soldiers fought and died in some of the fiercest fighting of the century. Entire divisions of PLA and Red Army disappeared into the maelstrom without a single nuclear warhead being fired.

Tens of thousands of critically injured flowed in a constant stream south and east from the front lines that stretched from the border regions near Vladivostok across Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and the vast distances of the Central Asian steppe. Thousands more flowed east from the Sino-Afghan border, where the PLA crossed the border and engaged the forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the local Soviet garrisons that were battle hardened from almost five years of constant fighting with Chinese and American backed Mujahedin rebels. Thousands more still flowed north from the Sino-Vietnamese border, where Deng Xiaoping decided to make a push for the Soviet naval base at Haiphong, where he and members of the Chinese Politburo rightfully thought that the Soviet Navy had stashed thermonuclear warheads to prepare a second strike against Chinese cities in and around the Pearl River.

By the evening of February 21st, an estimated five hundred thousand men and women were either dead or critically wounded after four days of fighting along the country’s entire northern frontiers. Many thousands more were sent south beginning on the 20th after the Red Army began using chemical weapons to throw back the human wave attacks of the PLA that were beginning to overwhelm the border garrisons. China’s healthcare system, both military and public, was taxed well beyond its capacity to handle the sheer amounts of wounded and dying that made it to hospitals and clinics.

Thus it was that on the night of the exchange, the nation’s medical community was in no condition to handle the tens of millions of victims that made it out of the dozens of cities that were struck that night and sought medical help in smaller cities and rural communities. The simple fact that doctors throughout the country continued to see to their responsibilities as radiation levels increased and the tide of wounded and dying continued without end is itself a testament to the heroism and spirit of self-sacrifice that had been instilled into them at the nation’s medical colleges and in the PLA. But, it was simply too much for them. They could not save even a quarter of those who they managed to see. Like in many countries around the world, on that day and on the days that followed the dead truly outnumbered the living.

What followed has been nothing less than absolute chaos. The central government perished in the fires of Beijing along with most of the twenty-odd million residents. Local provincial governors, mayors, and village chiefs died either in the nuclear exchange, or in the chaos that followed. PLA garrisons and bases that survived the exchange became centers of local power along with the multitude of smaller cities that made it through the worst of the immediate aftereffects of the fallout. Provinces that had existed for millennia in some cases ceased to exist as provincial capitals were vaporized, governors died, and PLA commanders openly fought one another with their fragmentary and diminishing forces to claim their fair share of the ash heap.

But, like many other countries, out of the chaos of the 1980s came the reconstruction. Hong Kong and Macau, the last two remaining Western colonies, by a stroke of fate managed to survive February 21st-22nd, 1984. Though the cities were exposed to high amounts of radioactivity, many of their citizens and their governments managed to survive in underground bunkers. In the decades since, they and the Chinese communities on the other side of the border in mainland China have formed the core of the most modern of the new Chinese states. While most of inland Guangdong is still heavily irradiated from the Soviet strikes, north of the cities towards the Fujian border there are still many communities that survived the exchange and the fallout.

The Republic of China, exiled on the island of Taiwan since 1949, has also returned to the mainland. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Taiwanese military has engaged in relief and reconstruction missions up and down the coast of Fujian, in north-eastern Guangdong in conjunction with the new southern Chinese forces, and in coastal Zhejiang Province south of the heavily irradiated areas where the Paris of the Orient, Shanghai, once stood. The fears of many in Hong Kong and Macau that the old Guomindang elements would take revenge on their mainland neighbors for launching thermonuclear warheads at Taipei and Kaohsiung never came to pass. In the twenty-five years since the first Taiwanese relief missions came ashore in Fujian province, they have brought peace and stability to what was otherwise chaos, violence, and almost constant fighting.

The China of 2016 is, in some ways, a harsher and more brutalized version of the country that entered the Twentieth Century. The people of China still identify themselves as one people, but they are now a people without a central government. While the gems of Chinese civilization, cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing with histories that stretch back thousands of years have vanished into the atomic fires, the spirit of its people remain.

Current estimates from the Republic of China-Taiwan/Fujian place the end of the physical reconstruction period sometime in the mid-late 21st Century, although some parts of the country like Beijing and Manchuria will still be too heavily irradiated to begin clean-up and reconstruction until the end of the Twenty-First Century at the earliest. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers will still be measurably radioactive until the 2080s. The Pearl River Delta clean-up continues to drag on as the radioactive wreckage of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and other cities have to be bulldozed and entombed in areas where their radioactivity cannot seep into ground water. Physical clean up should be finished, if all goes according to schedule, by 2030.

It is in the spirit of remembrance and cross-strait reconciliation that the two most modern Chinese states have come together to create this work. Like other post-war historical texts, chief among them are works like the world renowned Protect and Survive from Britain, Land of Sad Songs from Finland, and the American work Land of Flatwater from the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, Ashes of the Dragon has been pieced together from the stories of thousands of survivors who are young and old, men and women, Chinese and foreign.

As the generation that fought and survived the 1984 war continues to die in great numbers from the various cancers and illnesses that emerged after the bombs dropped, it is imperative that we record their stories for future generations. Whatever awaits us in the decades of this new century, it is important that we keep their stories alive. The sin of their leaders was that of arrogance, and their punishment has been meted out a thousand fold. But to the hundreds of millions that survived and gave birth to this new generation of post-war children, we owe a debt of gratitude. It was they who made their way out of the radioactive ashes and who built lives for themselves and their children in spite of the destruction that was all around them. They are the true heroes of Chinese history, for they will be remembered not for what they destroyed, but for what they have saved. They saved Chinese civilization from absolute destruction.

It is also important that these stories be recorded because of the largely poor relationship between the Chinese states and their neighbors to the north in the Far Eastern Republic. What survived the Day of Ruin to the north has unfortunately turned out to be less magnanimous and less civilized than their fellow Russians in European Russia. Soviet-style authoritarianism combined with illiteracy, historical revisionism, and state-sponsored repression to form a state largely hostile to outsiders. While this is tolerable for the time being, by the end of the century when the Chinese people once more carry a border with their Russian neighbors it will be important to establish a working relationship that will avoid the misunderstandings of the past. We cannot repeat the sins of the past if humanity is to survive this and coming centuries.

Before we begin, we would like to dedicate this work to our children. It is for them that we collected these stories and it is for them that we have not given up hope. We dedicate it to them in the hope that they can build a better, more peaceful world than what we were given. And so, let us begin.
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Good start. It might be worthwhile to try to reconstruct the fighting along the Sino-Soviet frontier and other borders. More specifically, how far the Soviets and their allies have made it into Chinese territory (if they did get into Chinese territory) would probably have a pretty big impact on the postwar.
General_Paul, the governor of Hong Kong in 1983-1984 was Sir Edward Youde (who signed the accords with China transferring Hong Kong to China; given your prologue, this obviously doesn't happen ITTL). Here's a link:

Waiting for more; I'd love to see a POV of a British citizen in Hong Kong...
Good start. It might be worthwhile to try to reconstruct the fighting along the Sino-Soviet frontier and other borders. More specifically, how far the Soviets and their allies have made it into Chinese territory (if they did get into Chinese territory) would probably have a pretty big impact on the postwar.

That's actually what I'm starting to do some research on right now. Given the prologue, I figured that the Red Army will be overwhelmed by the 20th. The PLA as of the 1980s had hundreds of millions to draft into its ranks, and every student I taught when I was in China was considered part of the PLA reserves. Most high school students have some form of basic military training, which is usually just marching in a straight line. Doesn't come in handy in modern war, but it means you have a lot of people to toss at the front and soak up rounds.

From what I could tell given the limited resources in English, Manchuria is going to be like the First World War on steroids and amphetamines at the same time :p. And, the tactical exchange on the evening of the 21st will turn most of Manchuria, meaning Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning Provinces into radioactive slag. That's most of China's usable heavy industry as of the early 1980's. I think the problem that the Soviets will face is that by the 20th they're going to be totally overwhelmed by Chinese numbers and facing the very real prospect that their border garrisons will be zerg rushed by a few million PLA draftees whose numbers can be replaced. That's about the time they're going to break out the chemical weapons in an attempt to halt the advance. The borders post-exchange might end up being status quo just because no one will be able to go back up into northern and central Manchuria.

That was the genius of Mao's strategy: No matter how many cities are destroyed in a nuclear exchange, there will always be more Chinese cities and hundreds of millions will survive to repopulate. In this scenario, though, he just didn't predict that they'd decide to fight one another in the ashes for supremacy.


CCTV 1: XINWEN LIANBO (新闻联播) - (19:00) Yesterday evening, East German reactionaries working against the interests of the working classes of the German Democratic Republic staged a protest in tangent with West German agents along the border in central Berlin. After the West Germans harassed the honorable border guards of the National People's Army, they fired back in self-defense. Unfortunately, the West German provocateurs had used citizens of West Berlin as human shields in a cowardly display of anti-socialist self-protectionism. Several of them were sent to area hospitals.

(19:20) Continuing the efforts begun at the Second Plenum of the Twelfth Party Congress in September, Comrade Chairman Deng Xiaoping gave a speech at Beijing University calling for continued vigilance against spiritual corruption that could erode the socialist spirit of the Chinese people. Comrade Deng identified the creeping influence of humanism, which he called "Un-Marxist" and "Against the teachings of our Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong." But, he was careful to speak against "unwarranted attacks" on our fellow socialist brothers and sisters that might lead once more down the road towards uncontrolled "reaction."

CCTV 4: (19:40) [COMMERCIAL]"Be like Comrade Lei Feng, who selflessly sacrificed himself for the betterment of the party and the Chinese people! Always put country and party ahead of self!"

CCTV 6: (19:30) [COMMERCIAL] "Tune in tonight at 21:30 to follow the continuing story of Corporal Li Dong, master saboteur and spy of the Eighth Route Army, as he slips behind the lines of the Japanese Army to help liberate the peasants of Jiangxi from the clutches of the evil Japanese overseer, Nomura!"

TV SHANDONG: (20:00) [INTRODUCTION] "Tonight, TV Shandong brings you a special presentation of the first four episodes of its new historical drama, 'OUTLAWS OF THE MARSH.' Watch Chao Gai, Song Jiang, and their allies form a band of rebels that will defy the feudal order. The heroes of Liangshan are brought to television for the first time, ever! OUTLAWS OF THE MARSH, on TV SHANDONG!"

CCTV-5: (20:00) [Sports Broadcast] "A special re-broadcast of the Chinese National Badminton Team's friendly match against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, held in August in Pyongyang."
As I mention in the PM, it's going to be hard for the PLA to move millions of draftees to the front, much less equip them. The Soviets have superior firepower, mobility, some degree of air superiority, and endurance in the late winter months that will be making Heilongjiang a frozen hell in this battle. It wouldn't be easy, but the Russians would probably be able to do circles around the slow-moving Chinese formations and blitz their way to Harbin and other cities.