The Chinese Army roared through the small town in Northern Virginia.
The initial troops were tough veterans of the fighting outside DC, and a lot of people were killed by early shelling and mortar attacks. A tank battle near the Arlington Hospital destroyed much of the building and faulty intelligence that weapons were being stored inside the Thomas Jefferson elementary school led to the horrific air attack that killed 50 children with a “smart bomb.” The Chinese initially denied it all, until Eastern media broadcast cell phone photos. That prompted the Chinese to claim local residents actually blew up the school either by accidentally mis-aiming their crude mortars, or as a propaganda ploy. A gang rape of a young woman was never reported on the Chinese news even though it was common knowledge among residents.
The second wave of Chinese troops were better behaved. They sought out the few locals who spoke some basic Mandarin and hired them as translators. Of course language skills were quite rudimentary, and a lot of bad, dumb things happened due to miscommunication. Many of the Chinese troops, based on very limited study back home at the Beijing DLI, claimed to speak English but often created as many misunderstandings as they resolved. Many locals were less than impressed; there were real issues to resolve and it was hard to build trust when an armed soldier kept saying “I no kill, we lub hamburger. Also, bears are green. PF Chang’s your all!”
Though the Chinese troops maintained that they were now occupying the town to make things better, for residents the current men with guns looked and sounded a lot like the previous men with guns. The Chinese tried: following local custom, they met Americans at the Starbucks for multiple cups of coffee, forgoing the green tea the Chinese would have preferred to sip on their own back at their bases. The officers had read that Americans loved coffee and were simplistic enough that their allegiance could be swayed just by choking down a few cups of the black gunk together. A popular book back home was called “Three Double Vente Lattes with a Shot.” Chinese higher command reported back to Beijing that many relationships were being formed that were impacting the growing insurgency. Some bad guys were turned in to the Chinese, but often a secondary motivation was settling old debts or vendettas, or simply sacrificing a few low-level thugs to build credibility to exploit later with the Occupiers.
The American translators hired helped steer some quick “feel good” building projects the Chinese wanted to do toward their friends, quickly figuring out that the Chinese spoke no English and, to be truthful, really did not care to spend enough time researching the place to figure out who they should have been seeking to influence. Many of the projects accomplished little other than enrich a few people, some of whom had ties to the insurgency or were simply shook down by the insurgency.
Still, the Chinese seemed happy enough just to report the “success” of each project back to Beijing. Beijing, interested in domestic harmony because of the unpopular war, welcomed only good news. Officers in the field seeking promotion quickly learned which way the wind blew. Complacent Chinese media embedded with the troops fed stories supporting the government line back home.
Back in Virginia, the big Chinese banquet held for the town on the local July 4 holiday did not go well, as only a few complacent locals were invited, leading to accusations that they had sold out early. One influential local leader was prevented from attending, stopped at a security checkpoint after someone failed to annotate a long list of “persons of interest.”
Back at the banquet, the complacent locals who sought out the Chinese and parroted back to them over coffee what they wanted to hear ended up receiving a fair amount of money from the Chinese to open a factory making plastic goods; the idea was to create jobs to distract the Americans from joining the insurgency while still keeping Walmart stocked. The first problems started when Chinese contractors took most of the development money for themselves, and no factory was ever built that round. Later the Chinese tried again, this time creating a few manual labor jobs that paid little and offered no sense of pride. The factory produced junk, and could only sell its goods back to the Chinese Army, who purposefully overpaid for them so that the factory could be labeled a success.
The Chinese decided to turn their attention to the schools, hoping to move opinion by influencing the local kids. The teachers were all fired of course, because they had taught the old “US” way, and were replaced by know-nothings who did know which way the political wind blew. Chinese textbooks, translated into bad English, were brought in. Parents who could no longer afford to feed their kids watched as the only full meal of the day was handed out as charity at school, and Chinese food to boot. The worst was when moms and dads had to watch their kids beg for candy from the passing Chinese soldiers who somehow still occupied the city. The Chinese made one silly mistake, handing out thousand of soccer balls when the predominate sport was still American football.
The more the Chinese propaganda screeched that their purpose in invading America was to free the country from its lazy, fiscally insolvent previous government, the more the presence of the troops irked. A bad government was nobody’s idea of good, but any American government still beat any foreign-imposed government. Most residents felt the same way—keep your development money and just send your troops home.
Some Chinese soldiers “got it,” and made some small differences, but they rotated home as quickly as the bad soldiers. No one was around long enough to really figure the Americans, with their odd customs, out. Good intentions were a good start, but without action they ultimately meant nothing. Simply meaning well was not enough.
Accidents happened; that’s inevitable when you place military gear in close contact with regular people. A child was run over one night by an armored vehicle. A man was shot poking through the Chinese Army camp’s garbage. Local women were offered large sums of money to act as Chinese “girlfriends.” About the only way Americans could make any money was by selling knock-off X-Box games to the soldiers, though the Chinese were also grand consumers of porn that featured blond American girls like the ones they made crude remarks to on the streets.
The Chinese, isolated in their encampment for their own protection, failed to notice the impact that failing municipal services were having on the locals. The Chinese had their own generators and water purifiers, and missed the impact that corruption had on siphoning off the money they provided for water and sewer repairs.
As the insurgency grew and support back home faded as a new war began in nearby Canada, the Chinese promises to stay and protect the population, plus rebuild the country, seemed more and more hollow. The local police force created by the Chinese grew increasing corrupt, shaking down citizens while cooperating for their own safety with the insurgency. Sensing a political opportunity, and with an eye on the media back in China, the insurgency backed off attacks, allowing the Chinese Foreign Ministry to claim that with violence obviously under control, a “transition” to American control was possible. “As they stand up, we’ll squat down” was the Commander’s Guidance.
Photo by Steve Webelunder Creative Commons license