America is a nation that likes to worry about unrealistic — occasionally silly — things. One only needs to look to American television and shows like “Doomsday Preppers” to see that. Unlike other countries, America has been largely untouched by Doomsdays for more than 150 years– total war, national-level disaster, pandemic — but that doesn’t stop us from worrying about them.
Let’s look at several works of fiction that posit an invasion of the United States — by Asia. Two of the works we’ll look at involve China, two others North Korea.
Why invade America to begin with? That’s not such an easy question to answer. The short answer is that it’s entertaining. China is a rising power, and when you have 1.3 billion people and a red-hot economy, it’s easy to imagine you don’t do things on a small scale. The Chinese wouldn’t just settle for conquering, for example, Vietnam — not when it has the economic and human capital to make a play for the entire world. Especially when you have an America on the decline. Turning things upside down makes for an interesting — though completely implausible — story.
As for North Korea…making a country with a GDP smaller than North Dakota capable of conquering America is a stretch of the imagination, to say the least.
The first novel, Invasion, predates the 9/11 era. Published in 2000 and written by Eric Harry, the novel posits a world in which the U.S. has withdrawn from the world stage. In the early 21st century, the United States, unable to afford global hegemony and caring for an elderly Baby Boomer generation, turned inward and left the field to China. China proceeded to gobble up roughly half of the known world, from India to Japan. (Including, for some unknown reason, New Zealand.)
China finally turns on the United States and Europe. Europe opposes the Chinese but is fractured internally by infighting. Middle Eastern oil is under the control of China, and the rest of the world has either allied with the Chinese enthusiastically or fallen in line to avoid being conquered. America is rearming, but has already lost Hawaii. Powerful (often ridiculously so) Chinese fleets patrol the Pacific and the Atlantic, and American seapower is a memory. Cuba is a vast staging area for a Chinese invasion force pointed at the American South.
There is a lot of grinding combat, and a lot of missiles fired. There’s a sub-plot involving the President of the United States’ daughter, and how she is drafted into a fully-coed infantry division. There is Chinese Politburo intrigue, and deadly White House intrigue. Perhaps not surprisingly there is no drone warfare, which reminds you how far the technology and capability has evolved in the last 13 years. There are American superweapons being feverishly built behind the front lines, which I won’t reveal. A student of naval thinking circa 2000 should be able to guess what one of them is.
Why does China invade the U.S.? To harness American worker productivity. I won’t even try to explain that.
Unique themes of the book:
Globalism + sex = funny coincidences: American women have sex with important Chinese men and have children…who become important and key to the plot.
More China faking things: An important plot twist involves a battle that was actually faked by the Chinese government for political purposes. Easily the most realistic part of the novel.
The premise of the book is that the world is experiencing a period of glaciation, and shifting weather patterns have wreaked havoc on the world food supply. The book takes place several years after a brief U.S. – Chinese war over Alaskan oil. A coup by Hawaiian nativists has thrown the Yankee yoke off Hawaii…and delivered the islands into the hands of China.
In this China invasion scenario things are even worse for the Americans. Whereas in Invasion the Chinese invasion came over the sea, in Invasion: California Mexico is a staging area for a vast Chinese army. China has formed a Pan-Asian Alliance, and 4,000,000 PAA troops sit in Mexico. Mexican and South American troops allied with China make up another several million. The mysterious “German Dominion” has sent airmobile and hovercraft troops to Cuba, with an eye towards exploiting any Chinese invasion of the U.S.A.
Why does China invade the U.S.? To seize America’s farmlands. Given the novel’s backstory, this is slightly more plausible.
Themes of the book:
China’s man surplus: In the novel, China’s gender imbalance and the surplus of men make for lots of men with no prospects of marriage, short of “earning” the right via service to the state. You can see where this is going.
Drone warfare: Invasion: California‘s combat scenes are reflective of the drone revolution. Drones do most of the fighting in the air, from close air support to “wild weasel” missions — and some of the fighting on the ground.
Pan-Asia-ism: The book implies that the creation of the China-led Pan-Asian Army was voluntary, and that Japan and Korea entered into vassalage with China of their own volition. Frankly I’m not sure that “Pan-Anything” on a national scale has ever worked out, and the idea of a Chinese – Japanese union is far-fetched, to say the least.
A video game released in 2011, Homefront stars a North Korean empire that stretches from southeast Asia to Japan. The U.S. – Japanese alliance sputters and Japan is invaded in 2018, suggesting that Caroline Kennedy’s term as Ambassador to Japan was less than successful. Economic problems have sidelined the United States. North Korea attacks the United States, rendering defenses useless with an EMP pulse and polluting the Mississippi River with radioactive contaminants.
China’s role in this scenario is unknown. Why China would allow North Korea to conquer overseas markets vital to the Chinese economy, let alone take over land China has territorial claims to is unanswered. Because the answer would be incredibly stupid.
Unique theme of the game: North Korea as a super power, successfully conquering almost all of Asia. Like Xerxes’ army at Thermopylae, many of the enemy troops the player blows up are not actually North Koreans, but South Koreas, Indonesians, Thais, Japanese, and so on.
Finally, we have Red Dawn, the 2012 remake of the classic Cold War film. This time however, the enemy is not the Soviet Union, Cuba, Mexico, and Nicaragua but North Korea. North Korea’s rise to a state capable of challenging the United States is unexplained, which is fine, because if it even did try the film would quickly become an unfunny comedy.
This was a terrible movie, something I have already gone on at great length about, and while the first three works of fiction are in their own way digestible, this is not.
Interestingly, the film depicts an America still engaged in the world — one of the main characters is a Marine just back from a tour in Iraq. Yet the film is so poorly and sloppily made one cannot assume much about the political setting it takes place in from merely from this observation.
Themes of the film: Perhaps the ultimate expression of Songun would be the enslavement of the United States of America. Because that is probably the only way in which the theory that military strength leads to economic strength makes any sense at all.
There are also common themes that many if not all of these works of fiction share. They are:
The Unending Asian Horde: In all works, at a certain point the invading Asian enemy just becomes a river of humanity, a force of nature. There are so many Chinese troops in both Invasion and Invasion: California that the reader is eventually numbed by their sheer numbers.
EMP: In three of the books/films/video games, electromagnetic pulse cripples America’s ability to defend itself. This use of EMP as deus ex machina instantly solves the problem of American military superiority.
A sinking American economy: all four invent an extended period in which the United States’ economy is crippled by recession or depression. In Invasion, it’s the Social Security train wreck caused by retiring baby boomers. In the other three it’s a recession caused by America’s foreign-owned debt problem or just a period of bad economic times.
American Neo-isolationism: In many of the novels, China’s global expansion is achieved only after an American retreat from foreign commitments. This emboldens the Chinese, to the extent that countries like New Zealand are gobbled up by China.
Asian Americans: all four novels and films go out of their way to have sympathetic Asian American characters. In Invasion, an American soldier makes a racist remark about the invading Chinese, only to be put immediately on the defensive in front of a female Chinese American squadmate. Invasion: California sees a half-Chinese American intelligence analyst partially blackballed because of her ancestry. Furthermore, the Chinese government is “terrified” of Chinese Americans who could become infiltrators. Both Homefront and Red Dawn have Asian American combatants fighting on the side of the Americans.
A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 29 post(s) on Asia Security Watch