The bite of the Dragon by JF SUSBIELLE
1The three empires
‘Why me?’ asked Tang
Why did the Chinese authorities call upon Tang, an insignificant low-level civil servant, to sign such an important Bill? A Bill that is to change the face of the planet and upset the world balance of power.
To prepare for the next day’s meeting, Tang feverishly opens the hefty file on Microsoft in China. Security failures and a suspicion of a backdoor are threatening the country’s independence and national security.
2 The crane and the serpent
Six months earlier
But what was Baxter up to in Beijing? His cover didn’t hold for long. This IBM engineer who came to China to repair a supercomputer is in fact an agent of the NSA, the National Security Agency, the obscure American investigation agency!
It is Jin, an intrepid young female officer of the Chinese counter espionage services, who is given charge of watching him.
She is helped down the wall of this American’s hotel and slips into his room on the 27th floor. Hidden, she witnesses his assassination by a dangerous Chinese prostitute.
Why was he eliminated? Because he knew too much?
Zhou is the chief of counter espionage and Jin’s boss. He heads the ‘Lin Zexu’ group, a secret society grouping China’s high-ranking officials and captains of industry, which militates for China’s technological independence.
Their next target: to get rid of Microsoft.
But this group’s activism does not escape the attention of the CIA’s Beijing outpost, run by Stenton and his ruthless sidekick Santana Song.
3 The year of the monkey
Santana Song, the CIA’s operations chief, gets Cheng, one of his agents, to infiltrate the Standards and Regulations Department of the Ministry of Information Industry, in Beijing. Indeed, its director, Bao, is strongly suspected of belonging to the ‘Lin Zexu’ group.
Cheng seduces Yapping, Bao’s devoted secretary, and gets down to work.
4 The trial
Bao organises a confidential meeting to sensitise China’s decision-makers. ‘Microsoft takes advantage of its software being pirated to penetrate the Chinese Market in which it has a 95% hold,’ he explains. Microsoft has the control on standards, Microsoft is gearing up to manage digital rights! Such are the themes endlessly repeated by the members of the ‘Lin Zexu’ group during those top civil servant meetings.
But Microsoft makes concessions. It decides to open the Windows source code to China. A working group is formed and the software editor even sends its top brain, Tom Bailey, to take part in the meetings in Beijing.
5 The imperial commissioner Lin Zexu
Tom arrives in Beijing.
Zhou, China’s chief of counter espionage, immediately decides to have him watched. He assigns this mission to Jin. It is she who shall work with Tom, the computer whiz kid, the one who integrated Internet into Windows 95 when he was just 17!
They very quickly become inseparable.
She tells him of a painful episode in China’s history, the opium War and the century of shame and humiliation suffered by China at that period.
A number of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia cause the price of crude oil to soar above 200 $. Chinese business circles suddenly become aware of their country’s fragility and vulnerability.
Admiral Liang, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and a nationalistic hawk, convenes an important meeting.
He describes the country’s geopolitical situation: under the pretext of leading a war against terror, the United States is encircling China with its military bases. The United States has got a grip on the China’s oil supplies in Iraq, the Caspian and the rest of the Middle East.
All these elements form part of a global plan: the United States must derail China. Now. For the longer its waits, the heavier will be the price to push back that rival.
What can China do to thwart this plan?
At the military level, China is no match. It is at America’s mercy …
It needs an awesome weapon to regain the initiative.
7 The messenger
Zhou is despondent. The efforts of the ‘Lin Zexu’ group to oust Microsoft have been fruitless. China doesn’t dare to get rid of Windows because the business circles and Shanghai’s capitalist lobbies want to uphold stability and the status quo.
‘What is to be done?’ he asks himself as he savours a moment of relaxation in a rather special type of massage parlour.
And then Zhou has a brainwave!
The army! The People’s Liberation Army, which has been searching for a solution against the American policy of encirclement and entrenchment.
The solution is this: sell the ban of Windows to the Central Military Commission as if it were a bomb!
For if China bans Windows, then Microsoft collapses, crashing the stock Market in its wake and causing the entire American technology sector to tumble.
The monumental crash of the NASDAQ will then the plunge the USA into a depression and economic crisis comparable to that of 1929.
The ‘M-bomb’ is just that. M for Microsoft: a clean but devastating bomb. A weapon of mass destruction. The vice-chairman of the commission, Admiral Liang, is won over.
He obtains the go-ahead from the President and the Government of China to launch the Microsoft bomb with the utmost stealth.
Unusual military preparations in China have been spotted at the CIA headquarters: movements of ships, missiles being tested… ‘What is China preparing?’ wonders Lorna Green, who heads the intelligence agency’s Asia sector. And why is China starting to stock millions of hard disk drives? Lorna wants to get to the bottom of this. She decides to hop on a plane and head for Beijing.
Tom, Microsoft’s young genius and Jin, the Chinese spy in charge of watching him, become more and more involved.
9 Ground Zero
On that 26th of August, at the Ministry of Industry and Information, Tang the junior civil servant resolves to sign the Bill that prohibits Windows in China…
Windows is replaced by CNOS, the Chinese National Operating System, a home-grown version of Linux that contains security modules developed by Professor Mok, China’s greatest and most prestigious software specialist.
On that same day, Tom and Jin escape from the surveillance of the Special Services and decide to spend the night together in a hotel.
Cheng, the CIA’s spy infiltrated in the Ministry, falls by chance upon the Microsoft Bill! But he is caught out by the secretary. He has to eliminate her. He escapes and manages to pass on all the information to Santana Song of the CIA, who then liquidates this compromising agent.
At the CIA offices in Beijing, they are trying to make the most of the few hours left before the Bill comes into force. But in vain.
The Bill is made public in the early afternoon. The bomb explodes.
Following China’s decision to prohibit windows, the Microsoft team that took part in the working group with the Chinese feels betrayed. They pack their bags and head back to the United States.
Upon returning after his night with Jin, Tom is stunned to discover the day’s events.
Jin double-crossed him. She manipulated him. She made a fool of him, treacherously explains Santana Song of the CIA.
In fact, Song had arranged to have the documents acquired by the spy in the Ministry placed in Jin’s flat in order to compromise her and have her charged for betraying the party. In China, this means the death penalty.
Tom is downbeaten at first, but cannot believe that Jin betrayed him. He escapes from his hotel to find her. The young woman has fallen into the trap prepared by the CIA. Tom arrives just in time to save her from the grip of the Chinese police. They flee on a motorbike to a secret Chinese commando base.
At the White House, the United States President, Jim Walker, learns of China’s decision concerning Microsoft.
‘This is an act of war’ prompt Larson, his Security Adviser and Nimoy, his Secretary of State, both fearsome neoconservatives.
11 The winter of Kondratiev
America’s ambassador attempts to put pressure on China for it to backtrack. But in vain. The M-bomb has the awaited devastating effect. The Nasdaq falls sharply with Microsoft and other stock market values in the computer sector. The most heavily indebted countries plunge into the crisis, and several States and financial institutions fall into bankruptcy …
Tom and Jin are spotted in their hiding place by American satellites. Once again, they must flee, this time by train heading for Xi’an. They are arrested at the station by the police, but Zhou, the chief of counter-espionage and Jin’s boss, discreetly organises their escape.
Faced with the gravity of the economic situation, the US President opts for military retaliation to China’s decision concerning Microsoft. He will send a task force comprised of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and a fleet of cruisers and submarines. The objective is to impress China and, if needs be, blockade Shanghai.
The neoconservative lobby in the USA, with Larson and Nimoy, presses for firmness and a confrontation with China, which it describes as a potentially expansionist country. The USS Ronald Reagan heads off for the China Seas.
13 The Eagle and the Dragon
The American task force is spotted and located by the Chinese Air Force. The Chinese President imposes a 200-mile exclusion zone which must not be crossed by the US convoy. The limit is crossed and Chinese submarines go into attack. At the end of a long combat, and the loss of a submarine, a second sub manages to send a torpedo into the side of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which must beat a retreat.
Tom and Jin are once more spotted and must leave the Taoist monastery where they had taken refuge.
14 Hao Bu Hao?
At the White House, the president takes stock of this defeat.
He decides to give China a seven-day ultimatum for it to repeal the Microsoft Bill which is pushing the American economy into bankruptcy. Past that deadline, the military operations will resume on a much greater scale.
In Beijing, Zhou negotiates on behalf of Tom and Jin. The young woman shall be cleansed of all the suspicion and be rehabilitated. As for Tom, he shall be returned to the Americans. Lorna Green of the CIA comes in person to China to take ‘delivery.’
But at the place where the exchange is to take place, Tom is shot in the shoulder.
For Jin, there can be no doubt. Tom is in danger and it is the Americans who want to take his life. She decides to protect him.
In Beijing, the Chinese President must handle the consequences of the ultimatum fixed by the United States. While he appears to be disarmed, with his back to the wall, he pulls out his trump: the financial weapon. He orders China’s central bank to sell several billion dollars worth of US Treasury Bonds, causing the interest rate to rise to over 12%.
America, which is heavily in debt and has been living on credit for several years, is strangled. The president of the Federal Reserve issues a warning: ‘We must give in, for the dollar has collapsed.’ The euro is now worth two dollars …
There then occurs a dramatic turn of events. At the head office of China’s counter espionage in Beijing, they have deciphered a part of the computer belonging to Baxter, the NSA spy assassinated eight months earlier. Alarm: there is question of a certain ‘M-bomb’ followed by the number 531 !!!
How can this be possible?
15 The M. bomb
The American President asks the boss of the Fed to resist despite the rise in interest rates. They must hold on until the end of the ultimatum. Only a few days remain. To maintain the exchange rate, he buys dollars with the help of America’s allies: Japan, Singapore, Europe, …
In Beijing, Zhou leads the investigation.
He manages to join Jin by telephone. In the past, she had worked with Professor Mok, the father of computing in China, and had been his best student before choosing a career in counter espionage.
‘M 531’ – that was the name of the security module developed by Professor Mok and integrated into the CNOS that replaced windows. Does this mean that the NSA has had access to the code and security procedures of the M531 module?
Zhou meets Professor Mok in a hospital at the bedside of his suffering daughter. He needs Mok’s help to solve the mystery. The fate of China is in his hands.
Tom, wounded, and Lorna board the plane chartered by the CIA. But inside, they have the nasty surprise of finding Song, the local CIA’s deputy, who turns out to be … the head of the NSA in China.
He lets out the information: the NSA has deliberately favoured the prohibition of Windows in China to give America a pretext to go to war with China! A preventive war that the States is bound to win, for it possesses the absolute weapon that will bring China down to its knees without even fighting.
Jin managed to get inside the plane by taking the place of the nurse. She attempts to take control of the situation, but Song is the smartest. He shoots at Lorna. Perverse to the extreme, he tells Tom that his father was a traitor, that he had been eliminated by the CIA by the hands of Norma herself, just like John Lennon, because he was against the war in Vietnam. Tom’s father was a traitor working for the KGB! In fact, Tom could check that right now on the on board terminal connected to the NSA’s computer. It is Jin who types on the keyboard and takes this opportunity to interrogate the NSA server about the M531 module. She has enough time to understand that Baxter came to China to deliver genetic engineering equipment.
She comes to the conclusion that the ‘absolute weapon’ Song refers to is a bacteriological weapon!
All this has been going on for too long. Song decides to eliminate Tom. He pushes him off the plane in full flight. Jin, equipped with a parachute, hurls Song into the void and jumps too. She swoops down on Tom and saves him. They are taken in by a helicopter, transferred to a submarine and return to Beijing.
Jim informs Zhou of these extraordinary reversals. Baxter delivered a bacteriological weapon to a doctor in Beijing.
The next day, Zhou has solved the puzzle. There is no bacteriological bomb.
The answer resides in Professor Mok’s daughter. She received genetic therapy treatment from the USA in that hospital in exchange for Mok’s treason. CNOS is contaminated by parasitic code. It contains a software bomb that is due to explode at the end of the ultimatum. That was the secret weapon the Washington hawks were counting on.
Jin meets up with her old professor. He reveals how much he was in love with her, and how much he became desperate when she left him, that his daughter was dying, and that he had decided to save her. Jin despises him. But she strikes a deal with him. He hands over to her the computer code of the American software bomb, and his name and shall not be smeared. Jin shall look after his daughter after he will choose deliberately to put an end to his life.
China is in a grave situation. All of the country’s computers are infested by the American software bomb. When it shall explode, in four days, the country shall cease to function!
The Chinese President decides to grant three days to a team of programmers to find an antidote to the American bomb.
16 The art of peace
Jin has an idea at the back of her mind! She hands over to Tom the insoluble problem confronting the computer scientists of the Chinese team: to defuse the NSA’s software bomb, which is now loaded into all the computers of China.
The American gets drawn into the puzzle. And he quickly finds a solution, both simple and elegant, which the Chinese computer experts failed to spot.
But he changes his mind and refuses to go any further. For him, it is a matter of conscience, for he would be betraying his Country.
Jin intervenes once again. She calls Lorna Green, the head of the CIA’s Asian bureau. She is recovering from her wounds in a hospital in Baltimore. Song had accused her in the airplane of having eliminated Tom’s father because he was a traitor to his country during the Vietnam War, and a member of the KGB.
Lorna tells him the truth. His father was not a traitor – quite the opposite – he always fought for peace, and had died in an accident.
Tom has overcome his inhibitions. He wants to meet the Chinese President to ascertain that his intervention will contribute to peace. The Chinese President gives him his word.
At the White House, the woman Vice President, who was not aware of these machinations, rebukes the President for having allowed himself to be manipulated by the NSA and the neoconservatives.
She warns him: if the confrontation with China implies a classical war with human losses, then she will be opposed to it and she will reveal the whole story to Congress and the press.
Tom finally hands over the solution to the team of Chinese programmers. The antidote is immediately injected into China’s information system.
Midnight. The ultimatum expires. The US President expects to see China collapse with the breakdown of its computer systems. But nothing happens. The antidote has worked.
The vice president now takes things in her hand.
She negotiates with China the withdrawal of the American fleet and normalises relations. China yields almost nothing. Tom and Jin leave the hospital with little Lili, late Prof Mok’s daughter.