|China: Death of the Dragon|
The break-up of China began in 2013. Measures intended to save some of the government combines from outside competition were met by serious market disapproval, and hinted at a schism within the government between the reformists and a group of new hard-liners that had emerged during the 00's. The result was a massive outflow of investor capital. The government responded with measures to prevent "destructive capitalist elements" from draining the country, further decreasing Chinese credibility. Riots erupted in several major cities, and the PLA was called in to quell them.
The riots continued to grow in 2014. In the Sichuan province they were especially violent, as people displaced by the Three Gorges Dam acted as seeds of anti-PLA activism. When several army units switched sides the rioting turned into a popular revolution. The Beijing government immediately moved to stop it, attacking Chengdu, Chonquing and other major cities in Sichuan.
The rich coastal areas broke free, not as much by direct revolt but by ignoring the central government more and more. The local governments turned inwards, purging different factions. The public joined in, and a loose alliance between globalists, ethnic activists, democrats, religious movements and opportunistic local strong men grew to support the independents.
The Beijing government tried to retain control over the main regions, removing forces from outlying regions to supply the garrisons near strategic places and the army in Sichuan. Local ethnic movements and resistance groups sprung up everywhere in the power vacuum. Tibet became de facto independent, and a bloody uprising began as the Tibetans take their revenge.
The civil war was fought between the Beijing government and the alliance of Sichuan, Shanghai and Guangzhou 2014-2019. At first it was a regular if confused campaign, and the Beijing offensive appeared to be working. Many major cities fell to the PLA, and it seemed able to retain control over the strategic infrastructure. But as people mobilised and massive waves of sabotage/terrorism spread, the offensive halted and the entire war bogged down into a stalemate.
Gradually the alliances holding together the sides began to crumble. The core regions remained, but fiercely independent ethnic groups, warlords and some communities made themselves de facto independent nations. Marauders and bands of ex-army soldiers terrorised the countryside where the weak governments couldn't reach them, and continue to do so until this day.
Starvation and epidemics spread, and countless atrocities were committed ranging from the Nantong massacre, the Baoji poisoning or the use of nuclear weapon against Zhengyang. Multiresistant epidemics ravaged the land, likely the result of biowarfare. All in all, the breakdown cost hundreds of millions of people their lives and displaced an equal number. Large regions were devastated, the infrastructure destroyed and any semblance to civilisation crushed on the battlefields or in the domains of the warlords.
The outside world tried to help, but at first the Beijing government staunchly refused all humanitarian aid and claimed that any attempts to supply revolutionary areas with aid would be viewed as interfering with Chinese internal affairs. The UN vacillated, but as it became more and more clear that Beijing could not gain control over the whole land relief work began here and there. Unfortunately the problem proved too large to handle - too many people, too many starving and sick, too many terrorist fractions not caring whose aeroplanes they attacked with "bamboo shot" antiaircraft weapons. In the end all that could be done was creating more or less stable "protected zones" mainly in the coastal areas.
By 2020 the actual war had ended, as each fraction was far too busy trying to keep together to fight each other. Over the next decade the region stabilised into a poor and confusing setting. The mountains remain the home of independent microstates and domains ruled by ruthless warlords. The main states suffer from bitter internal and external rivalries, civil unrest and lack of economy. Here and there are the remnants of the UN protected zones, today mostly absorbed into the other states or (in a few rare and envied cases such as Hong Kong) small international zones.
Currently China consists of several loose states with many tiny independent areas and places of total anarchy. As the situation stabilised outside relief work could reach at least the coastal areas, but the land as a whole is regarded as a hopeless mess. The internationalists have little interest in it, the nationalists are usually only interested in their own nations. The international help and development organisations give the help they can, but China is so big their attempts are merely drops in the sea.
The main states are:
The Red Basin Republic
Part of current Sichuan. Industrially strong but with a chaotic government where the cities vie for power over the countryside. The Great Dam provides energy to the region and a measure of influence over the lowland states, but it is practically an independent state of itself.
A weak ally of Sichuan centred around the Wuhan area. It was especially hard hit by the 2017 cholera epidemic and other diseases suspected of being bioweapons.
Reasonably strong and with international allies in Hong Kong but plagued by rowing marauders and many independent regions within the borders. Hong Kong is an internationalist mini-state, formally a part of Guangzhou but in practice independent.
Formosa island and parts of the mainland in Fujian. During the war Taiwan took its chance despite many warnings from its allies. The result has been a tar-baby situation: Taiwan cannot withdraw from the mainland, but defending the mainland has been extremely costly to the economy and caused the loss of international capital. Taiwan is today one of the fiercest isolationist governments, constantly denouncing the internationalists as betrayers.
A severely war-damaged state, but with enough residual industry and economy to hold its own against the Peking Alliance and other enemies.
The Northeast area centred around Beijing. A competitive alliance of smaller states, united mainly in wars against the outside. Recently the alliance has begun to encounter immigrating or invading Mongols and Russians, climate refuges from the north.
An independent, inhospitable region. The collapse of China gave the inhabitants their land back, but now the worsening climate is slowly them away.
Guiyang is a fairly typical city state ruled by a warlord. It is the former capital of the Kweichow province in the mountains south of Sichuan and north of Hunan. The land is a mountainous, rainy high plateau with many fast rivers. Incised valleys, steep gorges, and cliffs are common in the province making waterways nearly unusable. However, Guiyang is located in the middle of the highway from Sichuan southwards, making it a perfect place for a local ruler to extract tariffs and taxes from trade.
During the Civil War general Mao Lee took control over Guyang, turning it into his personal kingdom. He is now officially president and his fellow officers the cabinet. He keeps the trade route safe in exchange for hefty tariffs, occasionally attacking various mountain warlords and marauder bands. Most of the time he spends in Guyang enjoying life: he is a well known gambler and bon vivant, although he has a reputation of being a sore loser. As the joke goes, in the morning he has a hangover, in the afternoon he runs the country, in the evening he gambles. His ministers get to run things during the morning.
During the Civil War the UN established a protected zone in the Canton-Hong Kong area, originally intended as a staging point for further relief work but eventually just remaining where it was. The young Canton government supported the international aid and did its best to profit from it, but the situation evolved into a double bind: it became dependent on the foreign aid to survive, and at the same time the internationalist-nationalist split led to the UN making more demands on the local government in exchange for the aid. A complex web of mutual distrust, underhand political deals, economic blackmailing and media manipulation developed in the late 10's and early 20's.
Enormous refugee camps where millions of people clustered were set up around Canton, a constant source of unrest, epidemics and problems. Without micromanufacturing and microfarming the region would have collapsed long ago, and thanks to international aid early biotech materials could be used to quickly provide housing. Today the camps have grown into a cluster of poor, sprawling cities dotting the countryside. The Guangzhou Department of Immigration patrol them together with the UN forces
In 2025 is became clear that Hong Kong ha again become a firmly internationalist zone, formally part of Canton under UN protection but in practice an independent political entity under its own, in practice run by the Hong Kong Infrastructure Council. It is a prosperous internationalist enclave, dominated by a forest of biotech spires built in the late 20's.
Meanwhile the remaining UN forces have developed into a kind of parallel government in the rest of Guangzhou, upholding the order in Canton and the refuge cities but independently of the forces of the national government. The situation is uncomfortable but hard to avoid, without them the little stability that remains would likely evaporate and with it the last chance to at least remain a part of the international community. It is no secret that there is an ongoing competition between the nationalist UN and internationalist sponsors in funding the UN forces in the area, leading both to high-level intrigue in the administration and some conflicts between different groups stationed in Canton and Hong Kong.
The Guangzhou government is notoriously pragmatic and economic. It tries to uphold maximal law and order where it is needed, such as in Canton, in order to safeguard itself and international trade, while skimping on it where it is less useful. There are no true borders of the nation, rather a gradual transition towards more and more autonomous regions. Patrol drones are common, usually just monitoring events but sometimes carrying weapons. Canton is one of the largest manufacturers of low-end cheap drones, with some of the more advanced systems developed in Hong Kong.
The economic disparities are more extreme here than nearly anywhere else in the world. Central Canton is a modern city, most of the city is perhaps 10-20 years behind, the refugee cities turn of the century and much of the countryside nearly medieval.
During the Civil War, Sichuan came to be controlled by Sichuan Defence Force, essentially a combination of a public militia, defecting units from the People's Liberation Army and local political interests. At first public support was strong, and during the critical initial weeks in 2014 and 2015 everybody fought together against the PLA and the Beijing loyalists. The initial battles were a combination of regular military operations and widespread attacks against suspected loyalists and their holdings - quite a few innocent people got killed. At first the PLA made great headway against the major cities, but after the bombing of Chengdu the advance halted as it got bogged down in endless guerrilla warfare, sabotage and local uprisings.
As the war dragged on, the SDF both grew into a local government and a reasonably effective fighting force. It managed to drive the loyalists back, especially after the battle of Dazu in January 2016, even if the cost in human lives and material destruction was staggering. An uneasy stalemate developed, with the PLA dominating the northern half of the region and the SDF the southern. For a while it seemed the province would be divided into two sides forever, but in 2019 many of the PLA troops had to withdraw due to the collapse of the Tsingtao front. In a series of running battles the SDF ousted the remaining units, including taking the Three Gorges Dam after a bloody battle. For the next years the SDF held Sichuan despite several offensives, mostly part of Beijing's weakening attempts to retain control over middle China.
During 2022 it seemed the SDF had finally gained total control over the region, when the loyalists staged a coup attempt in the major cities. Bitter battles raged from house to house, and the fragile government seemed on the verge of breaking apart. Several army units moved to secure various cities and strategic points, partially to ensure that whatever happened they would come out on top. For the next four years the region was torn between rival fractions, and what had been a war against Beijing turned into a civil war. Gradually SDF reasserted itself, but several outlying areas and ethnicities had made themselves independent. In 2026 the Red Basin Republic was announced.
The Red Basin Republic is formally ruled by a parliament located in Chonquing, with representatives elected in the different districts. In practice these representatives are the local strongmen or their puppets. The real power rests among regional strong men, often generals of the SDF or local crime/business leaders.
The current president, Li Angnai, is an unpopular compromise between the major groups. Originally an intelligence officer in the PLA, he became the right hand man of General Bai Baosha, the SDF war hero. Together they fought the PLA in the civil war and the loyalists in the civil war. When Bai Baosha died in a traffic accident in 2029, Li Angnai became president as a compromise between the three main fractions.
The three largest fractions are the Red Gang, the Nanchong fraction and the Chongquing Traders Association. The Red Gang, led by General An Enrui , is centred on the interest of Western Sichuan, especially Wutunghliao. It is officially socialist, although in practice it can be described as pragmatic robbers trying to gain as much power and wealth for themselves as possible. The Nanchong fraction has close ties to the many farmers associations and the military groups protecting them. It is mainly interested in safeguarding the farming lowlands, playing out the other fractions against each other and getting the highest possible prices from the farming products from the citydwellers. The Chongquing Traders Association is really a front for the old criminal syndicates which came to become the local city government, a highly fractious group but strongly opposed to the other two fractions. They seek to open up more trade to the neighbouring states across the mountains (which would necessitate some expensive fighting against local warlords), the use of the Dam to get more from Wuhan and generally to outcompete the Red Gang.
Technologically the region is turn of the century. People use cellular phones and old-fashioned wearables. Biotech is very rare, and most of its products have to be imported. There is not much import or export, but the majority follows the Yang-tze river.
Chonquing remains the industrial centre of the Republic, despite the heavy bombings from the PLA and the fierce city warfare of the revolt. The population has decreased to 6 million people, less than a half of the 2010 size. The main industries are steel and carbon production, electronics and vehicles.
The city government is notoriously fractious. During the Civil War, it was first ruled by the traditional administration after it had defected to the SDF, but as the normal lines of command were broken during the heavy bombings a more informal arrangement of various networks and interests worked together to run things. As the situation stabilised, this informal government became official. Unfortunately the networks involved included several major criminal groups and plenty of more or less corrupt officials who had spent the 10's building up their own personal mini-armies and guanxi networks. From the start the city was plagued by intrigue and conflicts, and the loyalist revolution was at least partially supported by some of the fractions. Over time many were defeated or merged into other fractions, until at this point there remains around ten major sides that are reasonably peaceful. Still, the underhand politics of Chonqiung is almost proverbial in the Republic. Nobody doubts that the fractions will do anything they can to further their own ends as long as the outside forces of the rest of the Republic does not turn against them.
The different areas are dominated by the different fractions, each acting as the local government, police force, revenue service/protection racket and many other functions. Some fractions have specialised themselves, such as Colonel Han's Men who run the international airport, the Alley of Steelworks dominating the steel industry or the Pearl Association which runs the wharves near Hung-yen-ts´un.
The Three Gorges Dam is ruled by the General of the Dam, general Ran Muliang. He was a skilled officer in the SDF and was sent with a major force to sieze the dam from the PLA during the desperate fighting in 2019. The battle, one of the bloodiest in the entire campaign, only ended when the garrison was wiped out. He was told by the SDF to hold the dam against the likely counterattack. He and his officers set to fortifying the dam further, making sure that it would be impossible to drive them away. They built an improvised fortress on top of the dam itself, placing artillery on the mountains on both sides and boring a complex network of defence bunkers within a wide area. Since then Ran Muliang has controlled the area, becoming one of the most powerful men in China.
According to popular myth, he regularly receives caravans of tribute from Wuhan and even remote Nanjing in exchange for not flooding them. People downstream see him as the Dragon of the Dam, able to make the water come and go at his whim. Rumors claim he regards himself as the true emperor of China, residing on a golden throne on top of the dam. Other rumors speak about his enormous harem filled with beauties from all of China or hidden chambers filled with his mutated offspring, warped by exposure to chemical warfare poisons.
The truth is less dramatic, even if Ran Muliang is indeed enormously powerful and often receives "gifts" from Wuhan. He is not and have never been a brilliant man, just a competent man at the right time and place. He old, still quite alert but relying on his loyal officer cadre to run the everyday business around the dam. He never leaves the fortress; overall his paranoia has grown over the years and he is constantly worried about assassination attempts. He has deliberately fuelled the rumours that he has hidden demolition charges linked to his life support bracelet inside the dam; whether the rumours are true or not does not matter as long as the deterrent effect is clear.
Near the dam lies the city/garrison that has sprung up close to the local centre of power. It is usually just called The Dam or the Dam City. It is little more than a large armed camp, run with military precision by the General's officers. Despite this it is an important trading station and the easternmost outpost of the Red Basin Republic.
The Dam is for all practical purposes an independent state. The General rules supreme, and is indeed able to both cut off power to the Red Basin and Wuhan, control the level of the river and dam and generally force the surrounding region. However, being a master of brinkmanship the General seldom demonstrates his power, preferring to keep the Parliament and Wuhan fearful of him but not angered enough to do something stupid. In the Republic he is viewed with suspicion, but the politicians realise that it is better to never test him than to demonstrate to the world that he does not act under their control.