Military Fantasy Novels Find Home Online

For Foreign Policy, Isaac Stone Fish and Helen Gao explore the “terrifying” web-based genre of Chinese military fantasy novels:

It is the year 2049. China’s economic development has so disturbed the world’s other major powers that the , , 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 literature website. In one of the latest installments, published on May 2, U.S. government-sponsored hackers have infiltrated the Chinese ’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 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 an April blog post, he explained his thinking for the book: “The world besieges China and attacks it from all sides. Is this possible? Yes!”

There are thousands of Chinese war fantasy novels on the Internet — too sensitive to be published in book form, they circulate on , and websites like Blood and Iron Reading. Most languish, but the more popular ones get read millions of times. As a rising China struggles to define its military aspirations, and as the country’s vast propaganda apparatus encourages citizens to define their version of President ’s vague slogan “Chinese Dream,” these military fantasy novels provide insight into what Chinese people’s war dreams look like. [Source]

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