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Chapter 8 of Mr. Tucker’s new novel 2065, which we are serializing, on China’s invasion of Pearl Harbor.
Chen-li Chu was standing on the bridge waiting to go into the meeting with the military command when he saw the American plane circling overhead. “That’s the Ambassador, the one we’re to meet in a few days,” he said to the aide standing beside him. “Intelligence said he flew out of Beijing this morning.”
The plane came back and circled again, this time tilted toward the left, obviously taking in the scene below. “He must be sitting on the left side of the plane,” the aide responded.
“I hope he enjoys the view,” said Chen-li, more than a little satisfied at how well the operation had gone so far.
The intelligence and foresight of the military had been extraordinarily accurate. As predicted, the Americans had been taken by surprise. They had not been driven to any immediate retaliation. The Administration in Washington was preaching restraint and trying to find a way to resolve the two countries’ differences without conflict. And as predicted, Chen-li Chu would soon be negotiating from a position of strength.
As a result of this extraordinary gambit, China had established a beachhead on the most important piece of real estate in the world. Whoever commanded Hawaii commanded the entire Pacific. The old view had said that the American outposts — Samoa, Wake, Midway — were bastions that would have to be taken one by one, which would be all but impossible. But now, following the island-hopping strategy of General Douglas MacArthur in the Second World War, the invasion had left these smaller islands as stranded assets, more or less indefensible, while the enemy had been unable to respond without considering where to get the next $30 billion it had to borrow every week. Sun Tzu was right. The greatest accomplishment in war was not defeating your enemy but breaking his will without fighting.
“Meeting in five minutes, sir,” said a junior lieutenant, shaking Chen-li out of his reverie. There was to be a holographic conference with the military and the Premier in the conference room below deck. Chen-li would be a passive participant, waiting to see the intelligence reports and gauge how the military was evaluating the situation. For now they were in charge. It was only when the negotiations began that Chen-li would take over.
As a senior diplomat from a long line of diplomats, Chen-li had a slightly different perspective, although he was careful not to show it. His great-great-grandfather had been a court official in the Ming Dynasty, just before the Boxer Rebellion. His great-grandfather had served in the Kuomintang but had defected just before Chang Kai-Shek fled to Formosa and had made a successful transition to Communism, rising to a high position under Mao Tse-tung.
He barely survived the Cultural Revolution of a century ago, spending three years cleaning hog pens on a collective farm before finally being allowed to return to Peking. His fate could have been much worse. His close friend Deng Xiaoping had seen his son murdered by an angry crowd of Mao-inspired students who had thrown him out a fifth floor window.
After Mao’s death, Chen-li’s grandfather, following in his father’s footsteps, had joined Deng’s effort to transform China into the most prosperous country in the world. Chen-li Fei had been given charge of the Baoshan Steel Company when most of its assets were the remains of Mao’s backyard steel program and turned it into one of the world’s mightiest manufacturers. With the fruits of his success, he had bought back the family’s 18th century compound in Shanghai, where Chen-li Chu had been raised in the most ideal circumstances.
From his youth, Chen-li had been groomed for diplomatic service. His father had been a bit of a maverick, refusing to follow his own father into the steel business but returning to diplomacy instead. His far-flung pursuits had left Chen-li Chu alone in the family library to absorb his father’s marvelous collection of books. By the age of twelve he could converse intelligently about the differences in rice production in the Philippines and Peru. At sixteen, he began to join his father on world jaunts, which broadened his perspective. He sailed through university and by 24 was publishing papers on the world competition for oil. At 30 he had completed his masterpiece, China’s Place in the Post-American World, which catapulted him immediately into the ranks of senior diplomacy. It was for this reason that, twenty years later, he found himself aboard the Beijing squinting at the Hawaiian sunlight surveying the lucent waters of Pearl Harbor.
A military aide came on deck and saluted smartly. “Meeting is about to begin, sir.”
Chen-li followed him downstairs into the conference room. It was set up for holograms, with an electronic stage at one end of a horseshoe table. The military uniforms circled the table, their red-lined caps set firmly upon their heads. Even his aides were in uniform. Chen-li was the only civilian from the diplomatic corps. He took a seat inconspicuously at the end of the table. Almost immediately the ghostly figure of the Prime Minister appeared.
“Let me congratulate you,” the Prime Minister began almost before his image had come into focus, “for the success of Operation Flying Swan. You have fulfilled your duty in every aspect. The people of China are proud of you. You have served your country well.
“Almost one hundred years ago, the people of China and the people of the United States signed the Shanghai Communiqué, which marked the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The present discussions are only a continuation of those negotiations. Always the People of China have sought peaceful resolutions to our difficulties. Today we are faced with a situation where the people of Hawaii are expressing a desire to be reunited with their homeland. We respect these wishes and are acting upon them. That is what brings us here today.”
Chen-li recognized it all immediately. Although they had been told the meeting would be held in person, this was obviously pre-recorded from a few hours before. Was the technology acting up again or was it that the Prime Minister did not want to communicate with the entire staff? He wondered if they would have the opportunity to ask questions.
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