One of the most interesting and profound collection of texts regarding China has to be the Chung Kuo series of books by David Wingrove.

They are sci-fi novels set around 200 years from now, in a future where the Han empire rules Earth. The only races still in existence are Asians and Whites.

Despite the fact that they are fiction novels, their representation of the Asians (especially the Chinese) and their interaction with Europeans, is very insightful and surprisingly relevant to our current situation. Additionally, the author does not shy away from frank, honest representation of racial politics, which is quite refreshing.

Chung Kuo is primarily set 200 years in the future in mile-high, continent-spanning cities made of a super-plastic called ‘ice’. Housing a global population of 40 billion, the cities are divided into 300 levels and success and prestige is measured by how far above the ground one lives.

Some – in the Above – live in great comfort. Others – in the Lowers – live in squalor, whilst at the bottom of the pile is ‘Below the Net’, a place where the criminal element is exiled and left to rot. Beneath the cities lie the ruins of old Earth – the Clay – a lightless, stygian hell in which, astonishingly, humans still exist. These divisions are known as ‘the world of levels’.

At the very heart of Chung Kuo is the ‘War of Two Directions’ — a struggle for the destiny of Mankind and the clash of two different ideologies. For the planet’s hereditary rulers, the T’angs, the goal is stability and security, at the expense of individual freedoms if necessary, while a commercially orientated faction desires change and the uncharted challenge of the new — even though loosening constraints on an over-populated planet could be lethal.

Political tensions between the two factions lead to assassination, biological and nano-technological terrorism, and ultimately to war and the outright destruction of whole cities.

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