You are on page 1of 7

Pulp Liberation Army

It is the year 2049. China's economic development has so disturbed the world's other major powers that the United States, Japan, and Russia form an alliance and invade China. Fierce battles break out on the plains of northeast China, where Japanese troops and U.S. fighter jets besiege Chinese infantry. Caught by surprise, China's army nonetheless stages a glorious counterattack by deploying levitating tanks, and employing a strategy based on lessons learned from the Anti-Japanese War and the Resist America War (better known in the West as WWII and the Korean War, respectively). Such is the plot of The Last Counterattack, a serial novel published on Blood and Iron Reading, a Chinese military literature website. In one of the latest installments, published on May 2, U.S. government-sponsored hackers have infiltrated the Chinese military's network and accidently launched a Chinese nuclear missile directed at the United States. The anonymous author's online profile says he is a former colonel in the People's Liberation Army and currently a staff officer in charge of operations and reconnaissance in the 12th Armored Division at China's 21st Army Group. Going by the online pseudonym "the Old Staff Officer," he told FP in an interview conducted over the Chinese messaging service QQ that he "enjoys the feeling of letting [his] imagination fly." But Li, as I'll call him, believes that what he's writing may actually come to pass. In

Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense.an April blog post. "Anybody who studies war should remember Weinberger. and websites like Blood and Iron Reading. though compared with other science fiction. (Military fantasy novels fit into this genre. project into the near future. and. where he becomes an army general and defeats the invading French forces. an unsuccessful businessman finds himself hurled back to 1883." these military fantasy novels provide insight into what Chinese people's war dreams look like. Military fantasies are only a subset of a broader.) Some of the novels feature modern characters that travel back in time to defend China from humiliation. and his book The Next War. like The Last Counterattack. Is this possible? Yes!" There are thousands of Chinese war fantasy novels on the Internet -. Most take place in the past. through ingenious military strategies and advanced weaponry. but the more popular ones get read millions of times. Li declined to go into further detail about his thought process. he explained his thinking for the book: "The world besieges China and attacks it from all sides. Un- . tells of an army major who returns to the Anti-Japanese War. however. often during periods when China suffered a series of traumatic invasions. tend to focus more on international relations and less on technology. it imagines a series of regional conflicts arising out of the United States' "very deep cuts" in military capability. science fiction demonstrates people's hope to transcend reality. In 1894: China Rises." but he did mention his admiration for Caspar Weinberger. China always vanquishes these threats. they circulate on blogs. the beginning of the Sino-French War. Another novel. and as the country's vast propaganda apparatus encourages citizens to define their version of President Xi Jinping's vague slogan "Chinese Dream." Li says. when China's growth in economic and military strength prompts other major world powers to contain it through warfare. including one in which a nuclear war breaks on the Korean Peninsula and China seizes the opportunity to conquer Taiwan. armed with today's technology. thriving market in military books. Most languish. an education professor at Beijing Normal University and a scholar of Chinese science fiction. and eventually gains the respect and prestige it deserves on the world stage. saying he "doesn't need fame. Other novels. and the reality is that China often loses. Published in 1997. drives the Japanese forces out of Manchuria. As a rising China struggles to define its military aspirations. Resist Japan and Expel the Japanese Pirates.too sensitive to be published in book form. The novels follow one of two distinctive patterns. "In China." says Wu Yan.

"Bismarck is a popular figure among Chinese military aficionados. Blood and Iron Reading. where Tom Clancy can imagine a scenario where Washington attacks Beijing. "I was told by publishers that any novel that describes wars among different countries are strictly off-limits. the largest web platform for military literature. accordingly focuses on conflicts between human beings and aliens or unidentified terrorists. China has a long tradition of fantasy writing. where censorship is less strict. Chinese censorship precludes their publishing in book form. The Golden Bullet Series. the website's founder." says Zheng Jun.like in the United States. the last major Chinese military fantasy novels allowed to be published in book form." explains Jiang Lei. a Chongqing-based science fiction writer and an independent sci-fi literary agent who helps publishes close to 100 science fiction books each year. and boasts an average of 30 million unique visitors per month. in a 2012 interview with the Chinese magazine People Weekly. from the 16th century novel Journey to the . provides roughly 2. China "can only fight aliens or a fictional country. about the unification of German territories. It is named after a famous speech delivered by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1862. Such restrictions have led military fantasy writers to publish their work online." he says. in 2003.500 free military novels to download.

erasing it from the map. China is the world's top superpower. (The chairman was less interested in constitutional democracy. beneath a veneer of national pride flows an undercurrent of self-examination and criticism. which he described as "the great renewal of the Chinese nation" -. one of China's best-known sci-fi writers.often interpreted as a return to 18th. But the utopia/dystopian tradition prevalent in Western science fiction is shorter in China -. when it has achieved constitutional democracy." In an interview. where bands of marauding U. Written by prominent early 20th-century scholar Liang Qichao. during the Great Leap Forward. however.very different from how they feel about themselves. Often. about a monkey who fights demons. castrated of their martial spirit. he cited the story "A Fantasia of Communism. science fiction and fantasy novels became heavily guided by communist ideology. "Now. The goal of these literature works became describing "the future of communist society. a worker visits Beijing to report on his progress and meets a 107-year-old Chairman Mao amid "abundant vegetable gardens" and "automated factories that produce hundreds of thousands of tons of steel every day. . to the 18th-century ghost story collection Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. "Chinese science fiction writers have been dreaming the Chinese dream since the end of the Qing dynasty. and an earthquake has sunk Japan. students fight battles in the country's ravaged countryside.the first major work to explore it was the 1902 book The Future of New China. we have the responsibility of dreaming a better dream." wrote Han Song.S. portrays the United States in the throes of a Cultural Revolution. the book imagines China in 1962. Han's novel 2066: Red Star Over America. In it. "The socalled modern Chinese are in fact the post-Qing Chinese.or 8th-century China." wrote Wu." Li wrote in an April blog post. Many military fantasy novels use history as a mirror for self-examination.West." echoing Xi's slogan. in a blog post in April. who bought into the idea of constructing a future mortgaged on the present. in an essay titled "Great Wall Planet: Introducing Chinese Science Fiction." The novels have always been linked to China's exploration of its national identity.) After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949. Liang's writings on the need for radical change in China had a big influence on Mao Zedong." set in 2000 and written in 1958. the Chinese sci-fi scholar. A large number portray the Chinese as valiant and fierce warriors unflinching in the face of foreign troops and weapons -. when the country dominated world affairs. free from class struggle and committed to the reconciliation of humanity and nature.

" Wu says. the term Yellow Peril originated in the late 19th century and referred to the supposed dangers posed by Chinese immigrants working in Western countries. Another common theme running through the books is China -. On the surface. "Chinese science fiction writers are often preoccupied with the feeling that the world should be united. which is a major historical reason why it became known as the Yellow Peril. set at an international conference in Shanghai. The best-known recent use . not included in the world order. in which countries from all over the world come to pay tribute to China. as well as in recent works such as Being with You. a Chinese Go player and diplomatic envoy. about a seven-man group that leads humans to resist the invasion of aliens. In China." Throughout history. The motif is present in Liang's The Future of New China.sometimes violently -forcing the world to become more harmonious. the novel portrays a powerful future China and a decaying America -. China has often evoked suspicion and hostility abroad: "China's biggest strength lies in its giant population.but another way to read it is as a subtle rebuke of the Chinese regime's weakness and xenophobia during its own Cultural Revolution. the term is broader. "But they still seem to feel China is marginalized. tries to return civilization to a crumbling United States." In the United States. referring to the prejudice and suppression Chinese experienced in the hands of Western imperial powers.The protagonist. Li observes.

" one reader wrote in a book review. "In a word. which has attracted more than 140 million pageviews." During the anti-Japanese protests in August 2012.of the term is as the title of a 1991 dystopian novel by Beijing-based dissident writer Wang Lixiong. many Chinese military fantasy novels feature the destruction of Japan. Gao Yan." Nearly half of Chinese TV dramas made in 2012 showcase that same animosity: They take place during World War II." . The most popular novel on Blood and Iron Reading is entitled Sino-Japanese War-The Prologue to World War 3. Yellow Peril imagines a civil war breaking out in China after the June 4. and draws sharp parallels to today. Gao writes that she thinks a war between China and Japan is inevitable: "China will only become a superpower after it has pushed Japan -. "The beginning of the novel is strong and realistic. he says. with cartoonish levels of violence against Japanese: Chinese soldiers hurl grenades that bring down Japanese fighter jets and tear Japanese in half with their hands (picture Inglorious Bastards shot without any sense of irony. which is also probably the best-selling Chinese military fantasy novel (though mostly from international sales -. "There has always been little trust and communication between us and those guys on that archipelago [Japan]. and is still being suppressed by the state." The book envisions a full-scale Sino-Japanese War in the first decade of the 21st century. 1989. "thinking of a war in which China is attacked by all sides is extremely necessary. and with Japanese in the place of Nazis." In the preface to the novel.it was banned in China). and you get the idea). Frustration with the Chinese military is another common theme. When FP mentions the fast development of Chinese weaponry and military to Li. Li describes the time when China was attacked by allied forces at the end of the Qing Dynasty." he writes. "Yes. how much longer is it going to be suppressed?" In his April blog post. "I want to ask. massacre in Tiananmen Square. "The Chinese anger over the Diaoyu Islands dispute is not enough to start a war. ignited by a naval clash between Japan and Taiwan near the disputed Diaoyu Islands. It's never hard to imagine the hatred between the two peoples. but we never use it. started it in 2005 under the pen name "The Last Defender of Principles.aside.the obstacle -. Like Han's 2066. which the Japanese call the Senkakus." he wrote. a young woman who grew up near a military camp. unleashing hundreds of millions of Chinese refugees who cause international political mayhem by their sheer numbers. another military fantasy writer who goes by the name "Smoking Coffee" vented a similar feeling on his Weibo account.