Halfway across the world, a diplomat named Chen Ming walked through a bustling crowd in Beijing, China. He had been summoned for an urgent meeting with his superiors.
It was a nice morning, and seemingly everyone wanted to be outside. He was accustomed to the city’s endless commotion---after all, he’d grown up there---but as he settled into middle age he was eager for the upcoming changes he knew were coming in his life.
He had enjoyed a nice supper the previous evening with his parents to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary, but now he was focused on his upcoming assignment.
He reached the conference room and saw several key people gathered around a TV screen. He saw one of his close friends and asked, “Why did we need to meet today? What has happened?”
“Hi, Dragon,” his friend said. “There was a big earthquake in the United States. This might be the opportunity we’ve been waiting for.”
Dragon smiled at his friend’s use of the nickname he’d gained during their time together at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. He’d received the name when one of his supervisors there found out his birth in 1964 had fallen in the Chinese calendar’s Year of the Dragon.
“Nobody’s called me Dragon since I left the United States,” he said. “I’ve missed it.”
The friend smiled. “We might as well use it again, since you’re heading back there.”
Soon Dragon was seated around a table with other Chinese leaders, and they all agreed to speed up their plans after the earthquake.
“This disaster is going to have far-reaching effects across the United States,” one diplomat said. “Their economy is going to take a hit, and if we implement our plan as quickly as possible, it will be a powerful one-two punch.”
Dragon smiled. The timing was right, and America would never suspect the source of their troubles. China had purposely acted like a big lovable panda bear in their dealings with the United States for the past two decades, and it had paid off both diplomatically and economically. However, the Americans didn’t seem to realize that when a panda is irritated, it will occasionally violently attack---and China was definitely irritated with America.
The meeting soon concluded, and Dragon departed to begin his assignment as quickly as possible. He returned to the modern office tower where he lived, exchanging pleasantries with the doorman before stepping into the nearby elevator and being whisked to his penthouse suite on the tenth floor.
He entered his suite, gently shut the door, and then stood motionless for nearly a minute, savoring the silence. He moved to a large window that overlooked the sprawling city. The unrelenting haze of pollution obscured the rising sun, and he shook his head at the unending mass of humanity on the streets below.
“I can’t wait to get out of here,” he said quietly. He had already selected his future home once this assignment was over---a large ranch house in America tucked away in a quiet valley where he could actually see the stars at night.
Dragon moved from the window and pondered the direction his life had taken. As a young man he had excelled in his studies and had been given the chance to attend college in the United States. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in the early 1990s, he returned to China and worked his way through the political ranks.
He was eventually assigned to work in the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., where he was trusted and well-liked. His superiors had recognized his skills and groomed him for more important projects. After numerous successes in the service of the Chinese government, he was on the verge of his crowning achievement before retirement. This upcoming mission would make him revered among his countrymen forever.
By mid-morning Dragon was ready to depart on his journey. He wandered through his apartment for the last time, retrieving a few remaining personal items. All of the furnishings in the apartment were staying there, since another Chinese leader would take up residency in the penthouse in a few days.
After his belongings were packed, he went to a small closet and removed a sturdy briefcase that had been delivered to him the previous week. He carried it to the kitchen table, entered the correct numbers in the combination lock, then carefully opened it. Inside were four metallic thermos-type containers. Each one was about the size of a soda can and bound tightly in bubble wrap to avoid any mishaps. He gingerly touched each one.
“Everything looks good,” he said before snapping the briefcase shut. He placed it back in the closet and then smiled in wonderment at what those four small packages would soon help trigger---the downfall of the United States.