Chinese Enclave

I am currently editing a novel by a Chinese author writing in English. An excerpt from the first chapter is here, and more excerpts will be forthcoming. The author wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, but is keen to get his book out to a wider readership.

The novel is set in a near-future America where US power has severely degraded, but not quite collapsed. In the wake of localized government breakdowns, China has established a protectorate in the American northwest to protect the lives and property of its nationals. The plot of the novel revolves around Chinese authorities’ attempts to establish authority and the insurgency fought against it. The world it reveals is a much broader

The author originally came to me for help writing in his second language. He has both studied and worked in the United States, and chose English for his novel since it captured ideas and sentiments not often expressed in his homeland.

Over the course of our conversations, he also had a lot of questions about certain characterizations that require intimate familiarity with certain aspects of American culture. Together, we developed these loose and inchoate ideas into the major themes of the book. In particular, we often discussed how complicated counterinsurgencies are, and how they tend to explode the myths that both occupiers and occupied hold of themselves.

Like the characters themselves, coming to terms with the reality of a collapsed superpower and a shattered mythos, this book is for the author an attempt to understand his country’s destiny and the nature of America.

In this way, Chinese Enclave can only be understood in its literary milieu. Contemporary Chinese fiction is a world mostly unexplored by American audiences. Some exceptions, such as The Three-Body Problem, are now entering the mainstream, but many of the themes and subject matters remain unfamiliar.

A subset of the world of Chinese fiction strongly overlaps with certain corners of Chinese online culture. This realm is dominated by web forums and blogs that are chiefly concerned with China’s place in the world. It is inhabited mostly by young men, often fiercely nationalistic, whose posts express their hopes and anxieties about their country’s future.

Chinese Enclave can be seen in many ways as a bundle of several of these themes that run throughout these boards: China’s economic and military rise, America’s accompanying decline, and the place of Chinese nationals in the West. There is readily-perceptible criticism throughout, both of China and of American society as a whole.

One frequent subject of the author’s and my conversations was the relation between American culture and the counterinsurgency doctrine pursued by the US military over the last half century. The theme of an imperial China fighting American partisans presents many opportunities for dramatic irony, often involving veterans of US wars.

But the irony is an ornament, not a theme. More interesting are the differences between Chinese and American ways of doing things, and the difference between insurgency in a recently-great power versus a third-word backwater. Characters are guided and also often sabotaged by their conceptions of their country and of the other.

I hope to publish the bulk of the book via excerpt, and encourage comment. Much of Chinese Enclave grew out of conversations, and comments from a wider audience will only benefit the author.

Excerpt from Chinese Enclave Chapter 1

Yieh Xu pulled his face back from the handheld monitor and thumbed his mic.

“Squad 3, this is Squad 2. Three fighting-age males with rifles and packs, moving west through a drainage ditch toward your sector, 800m from MSR Lee. Request fire clearance on 280 azimuth.”

“Negative, Squad 2, we have a team in overwatch along that vector.”

“Can they get visual?”

“Standby.”

Xu put his feet up on the coffee table and sipped the tea Mrs. Chen had brought him. Her only duty was to act the housewife while keeping an eye on activity in the neighborhood. She did her job well. Of all the cover houses, this was by far his favorite to post at.

The radio crackled: “Negative on the visual, Squad 2. Please re-verify enemy pos.”

“Roger.”

Each team was supposed to relocate every 12 hours, but as squad leader, he usually found a reason to stay longer here. Eighty percent of the traffic entering the subdivision passed by here anyway, so it was

“Chief, we lost visual contact, I think they entered the bushes running along the ditch.”

“Keep scanning the area. Sung, move the killer to 190 degrees off-target, same stand-off. Team 3, shift from suppression to isolation.”

Xu laughed. The holdouts were such a joke. They would traipse to their objective area with the worst imaginable concealment, then play commando right before they hit. Amateurs who got worked up watching their own action films. Squad leaders would even compete to see who could let holdout teams get closest to their position before shredding them to pieces.

“I think we’ve got them on radar, not seeing any movement though. Will confirm.”

For a while, squads were even letting the partisans get a few, ineffectual attacks off, at least for long enough to get VidFeed footage uploaded to holdout networks. It worked pretty well to bait them into the same stupid mistakes, but the EPA eventually put an end to it. Went against their messaging of harmonious state of security.

“Unidentified drone inbound, 240 bearing.”

“Get those interceptors up.”

“It’s moving way too fast for that, our only option is to jam it.”

“Then do it.”

“We’ll lose the hunter feed…”

“Do it.”

Xu sat up and pulled the radar feed onto the large monitor set up against the wall. The rest of HQ team was nervously bustling about the room, feeding off his anxiety. The hunter and killer drones appeared as tiny dots over the contoured map of the surrounding hill country. Headed in their direction was another dot, moving fast.

“Put our drones on evasive action before we go dark. Send out an alert to clear the airspace.”

The icons representing the friendly drones started doing a bee’s mating dance on the screen, a low-res representation of much more intricate maneuvers the two actual craft were performing in air. All eyes were glued to the screen, still not sure what to make of this enemy novelty.

The unidentified dot blew past both the friendlies, then disappeared. The house shook as a deafening explosion filled the air.

“Cut the jamming! Get visuals!” screamed Xu.

An image of the three infiltrators appeared on everyone’s monitors, darting across a backyard into the rubbled backside of a house.

Fuck….shit…. “Bring the killer directly overhead. Get rid of them NOW!”

The rebels had hit an empty cover house. No one was inside, which meant they either had bad intel, or…

The image from the hunter dropped down to street level, looking straight into the hole made by the enemy missile. Visual and IR feeds didn’t show much, but the radar feed showed three semi-distinct blobs moving through the structure. After a second or two, target boxes popped up around them. Three-dimensional coordinates appeared beneath the boxes, reflecting the data being streamed to the killer drone.

CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG…….……CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG…………… CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG-CHG

The hunter feed swept in towards the half-destroyed house, passing through a cloud of smoke. A trio of bodies lying on the ground floor appeared on the visual feed, shredded to bits by the killer’s 30mm cannon.

A total silence of several seconds was interrupted by PFC Tang’s shrill laugh.

“Haha! Three holdouts dead attacking an empty house! So dumb! At the rate they’re getting themselves killed, they’ll be as extinct as the dinosaurs soon!”

Xu felt uneasy.