PACIFIC NIGHTMARE BY SIMON WINCHESTER

Standard

Copyright 1992.

It is Thanksgiving 1999 and an American B-2 stealth bomber takes off from Whitman Air Force base. Its destination is to drop an atomic bomb over Tokyo bay. So how did this come about. The story then goes back to 1996 and the events around the handing over of Hong Kong to the mainland Chinese. The Beijing government decides to appoint a hardline Maoism northerner to the post of governor. This causes riots during the handover. The Triad gangs are the main resistance to the Communist government. When they assassinate a policeman in the neighboring city of Canton it results in innocent men being executed for the crime. Soon a demonstration sees elements of the army and government side with the protesters. Soon the southern Chinese provinces are in rebellion and a civil war rages. The Japanese with a new right-wing government flexes their military by sending troops into China to protect Japanese property and citizens. The Chinese plan to retaliate with their nuclear weapons so the U.S. drops a nuke over Tokyo bay to get the Japanese to back down and prevent a wider nuclear tragedy.

So this book is a pseudo-history of what at the time was the future handover of Hong Kong. Obviously the author got it all wrong. The transition was very smooth and up until now they have abided by their agreement to not change the way Hong Kong was governed for fifty years. They actually waited for twenty so that’s actually longer than I thought they would. The book is a very dry read and somewhat dull. This the author’s only fiction novel. He is known mostly for non-fiction. With the current protests in Hong Kong I thought I would revisit this book. When I first read it I was somewhat disappointed. As I said it is a dull dry read.

Yet I found it interesting to read now as what someone thought would happen but years after the fact you know what really happened. Back in the early nineties after the Tiananmen Square massacre there was belief the country was heading toward a civil war. Instead the government just made money and a combination of carrot and stick kept the people complacent. Now they are having troubles and who knows what the future holds for China.

Another early nineties thing was to resurrect the old Axis enemies. In this case Japan which was seen as splitting with the U.S. and pursuing an expansionist policy. Obviously that didn’t happen either. I found it a bit goofy that they had to resort to dropping a low yield nuke over Tokyo bay and killed hundreds of people to get the Japanese to back off on their troop deployments. I mean you’d think just showing them the Chinese preparations to launch their missiles at Japan would be enough for them to get the message.

So anyway this isn’t probably for everyone.

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