How plausible is The Unparalleled Invasion?

In the year 1910, Jack London (author of The Call of the Wild and other books) wrote a sci-fi story (although it reads like alt-history nowadays) for a magazine. In the story, all of China becomes a satellite state of Japan and China undergoes heavy industrialization within a single decade. In 1922, China turns against Japan and annexes Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan. In the 1970s, China's population grows massively and it decides to conquer Japan and all of the European colonies in Asia. The European response to this incursion is to use biological warfare to wipe out 99% of China's population and kill the rest with soldiers. USA and Europe then colonizes China and "This opens the way to a joyous epoch of 'splendid mechanical, intellectual, and art output" (the author's words, not mine). The biological weapons then used to genocide China are subsequently banned and destroyed.

So ignoring how bizarre and awful it is that the genocide of billions of Chinese people can be portrayed as a positive thing; I want to know how plausible is this story from a historical perspective. Particularly
  1. How plausible is it that China in the early 20th Century or even late 19th Century industrialize to the same extent that contemporary Japan did?
  2. How plausible is it that this China can win a war against Japan and end up taking over Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan? Later on this China will also conquer all the European colonies in Asia.
  3. How plausible is it that the 1900s Western Powers can come up with a weapon that can wipe out the vast majority of the Chinese population without said weapon backfiring on them?
 
How plausible is it that China in the early 20th Century or even late 19th Century industrialize to the same extent that contemporary Japan did?

Are we talking about the Qing Dynasty in particular, like in the original story?

How plausible is it that this China can win a war against Japan and end up taking over Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan? Later on this China will also conquer all the European colonies in Asia.

If China industrializes itself to the same extent that Japan did, and also becomes expansionist, it would definitely be able to conquer a large chunk of Asia for at least a temporary period of time.

Additionally, perhaps there is a conflict going on in Europe at the time which keeps the colonial powers distracted from the invasion of their Asian colonies. That would make things even easier for China.

How plausible is it that the 1900s Western Powers can come up with a weapon that can wipe out the vast majority of the Chinese population without said weapon backfiring on them?

Why the "1900s" powers? The story is set in the 1970s, and European weapons inventing powerful biological weapons in the 1970s is more plausible than them doing it at the beginning of the century.
 
If China goes Communist earlier they might follow Lenin's example and attempt to modernize their economy along Soviet style lines. They gain control of Southeast Asia but probably not Japan itself. Japan forms an alliance with the US & Britain to use biological weapons against the Chinese. Japan's empire spreads through Asia, potentially creating a Cold War between them and the US & Britain.
 
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  1. How plausible is it that China in the early 20th Century or even late 19th Century industrialize to the same extent that contemporary Japan did?

This could only happen, in my opinion, if there was no Xinhai Revolution and the Qing Dynasty remained in power. I say this because the Republic of China was a unstable mess, which long story short, eventually led China into the Warlord Era.


  1. How plausible is it that this China can win a war against Japan and end up taking over Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan? Later on this China will also conquer all the European colonies in Asia.

This could not happen until the 1930s-40s, I think. There is too little time between 1910 and 1922 for China to acquire a industrial base on which to build such a war machine. Also, as to the matter of China conquering all of Europe's colonies in Asia, there is no real reason to do this. Japan was struggling for resources to fuel it's war machine. China is the most resource-rich country in Asia, so I don't see what it could possibly gain from going on a war of conquest.


  1. How plausible is it that the 1900s Western Powers can come up with a weapon that can wipe out the vast majority of the Chinese population without said weapon backfiring on them?

The Western powers would not be able to wipe out 99% of the Chinese population, even with the technology of the 1970s, as @Emperor of Pennsylvania pointed out. Even if they have aircraft advanced enough to cover the whole country, biological weapons are not very effective tools of war or genocide. Take tabun. Tabun is not the type of weapon you want to use on a territory you wish to occupy, since it can be absorbed into the land and has a cumulative effect on the victims, so if they wanted to colonize China after spraying it with tabun, all they're going to get is dead land and potentially, dead colonists.

I suppose the genocide could be accomplished by dousing the country in sarin. It is many times more lethal than hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, mustard gas and chlorine gas combined and can easily turn into a vapour. It would be a horrible way for millions of people to die, but if somehow, the Western powers were able to put all of their resources into exterminating the Chinese, it would be the way to do it.

But, sarin has it's own weaknesses. Yes, it is very dangerous, but it can dissipate or become harmless within minutes or hours. The best way to use sarin is in a contained space, like the 1995 Tokyo subway attacks, so there would need to be consistent dousings of the Chinese population in sarin if you want to exterminate the population. No sane general is going to divert military resources for such a impractical (and of course, immoral) operation.

Even if you find the perfect weapon to exterminate the Chinese population, using biological warfare and nerve agents on such a terrible scale would set a horrible precedent. Rather than creating some golden age, the Western powers have just shown that it is acceptable to use nerve agents in warfare, against civilians, no less. This anti-Chinese alliance would probably break up afterwards, with each nation now feverishly working to expand their biological weapons research. Cue the end of human civilization.
 
If the Qing Dynasty remained in power but didn't change its policies, China wouldn't be much of a threat to Europe. Perhaps the Hundred Days Reform is successful and isn't shut down by Cixi here?

Yeah, that seems plausible. With enough modernization, calls for a republican revolution are eventually ignored by the Qing authorities and potentially, the Chinese people in general.
 
Are we talking about the Qing Dynasty in particular, like in the original story?
It could be the Qing Dynasty or it could be an alternative Chinese government in the same time period.
Why the "1900s" powers? The story is set in the 1970s, and European weapons inventing powerful biological weapons in the 1970s is more plausible than them doing it at the beginning of the century.
By 1900s, I was talking about the century, not the decade.
 
I remember taking an advance CBRN course in which they did talk about the possibility of designing a viral bioweapon that target people with specific genes. That being said it was assumed/speculated that such a weapon is more useful as an assassination tool against specific VIPs rather than a racial weapon against populations. It was also mentioned that this could be accomplished by medium size nations and regional powers (of OTL early 21st century).

(Said course also discuss the generals of meth production but that's besides the point. Also none of this is classified or secret so no need to get on my ass about OPSEC).

So can alt 1970s major western powers do it? Probably, especially if a sudden superpower and belligerent china spurs on military tech development. Will it work as advertised on the large scale? Probably not, for a variety of reasons.

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Although the premise of this particular scenario is rather radical, the trend (particularly in military sci fi) of the destruction of china as a necessary prerequisite for humanity's next golden age is more common than comfortable, even if most of others merely have the chinese regime be destroyed or the country cut down to size (though the subtext usually implies the destruction or dismantling of the chinese people).
 
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Even if you find the perfect weapon to exterminate the Chinese population, using biological warfare and nerve agents on such a terrible scale would set a horrible precedent. Rather than creating some golden age, the Western powers have just shown that it is acceptable to use nerve agents in warfare, against civilians, no less. This anti-Chinese alliance would probably break up afterwards, with each nation now feverishly working to expand their biological weapons research. Cue the end of human civilization.
For that matter, another flaw in Unparalleled Invasion is the possibility of China having a "dead man's hand" superweapon of some sort, with the story ending in MAD as China uses it's nukes when it realizes the West will kill them all.
 
For that matter, another flaw in Unparalleled Invasion is the possibility of China having a "dead man's hand" superweapon of some sort, with the story ending in MAD as China uses it's nukes when it realizes the West will kill them all.
The story was written in the year 1910 so there is no way the author would even concieve of a nuclear bomb (although H.G. Wells did write a story in 1914 about a nuclear weapon). I guess China could strike back with there own bioweapon but I guess the author didn't want the Europeans to lose.

Sorry for the late reply and bump. I only know realized somebody replied to this thread in September.
 
1. The (fortunate) problem with the story is that a China powerful to conquer all of Asia likely has WMDs to retaliate (or even pre-emptively use, given they're planning on "liberating" all of Asia from European rule in the first place) against the West. I really doubt they wouldn't have bioweapons or nukes if they planned on expanding, well, everywhere. If they didn't plan on expanding I don't see it likely that the Europeans would go all Nazi on them ("scientific" racism was already winding down prior to WW1, and probably would have continued sans a war to accelerate it's decline, although admittedly probably a bit slower than OTL).

2. Bioweapons as lethal as one in the story are probably ASB - even the Soviet program OTL didn't invent anything as deadly. And if something like that was actually possible... a disease both as deadly and contagious as that wouldn't just be contained to China's borders.
Although the premise of this particular scenario is rather radical, the trend (particularly in military sci fi) of the destruction of china as a necessary prerequisite for humanity's next golden age is more common than comfortable, even if most of others merely have the chinese regime be destroyed or the country cut down to size (though the subtext usually implies the destruction or dismantling of the chinese people).
It's just basic racism coated with geopolitical power anxieties. China is the greatest challenger of the West nowadays after all.
 
It might have happened if Japan had been opened up later, and China industrialized earlier, but basically this was racist colonial wishful thinking. Japan was the rising power in Asia at the time, and China after the Boxer Rebellion seemed like a ripe target for foreign exploitation.

Re the Wells story involved a bomb that repeatedly exploded, sort of like a modern reactor meltdown I think:
 
Honestly, the first thing I always think of when this story comes up is how I found out about it - a coworker who suggested I read it and basically said this was a desirable thing to do.

The fact we worked as park rangers at the Statue of Liberty just makes it more memorable.
 
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