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Literature / The Bear and the Dragon

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The Bear and the Dragon is a thriller novel by Tom Clancy, featuring the character Jack Ryan.

China, facing an economic and political crisis, decides to invade Russia. The U.S. must cement a friendship with its once-greatest foe to fight off the aggressor.

This novel contains examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Part of the reason President Ryan remains in Washington despite an inbound Chinese nuclear missile. He can't live with leaving the 'expendable' members of the White House staff behind.
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  • Ambadassador: Monsignor Franz Schepke, the deputy head of the Vatican embassy in Beijing, is described as being a spy of sorts as well as a diplomat, and nearly wrestles a gun away from a policeman who pistol-whips his supervisor during a protest over a forced abortion per China's single-child policy.
    He was a priest. He couldn't use deadly force. He couldn't attack. But he could defend.
  • Artistic License – Economics: The reason for the trade dispute with China is primarily due to a "trade deficit" that the US faces, where the US imports more from China than it exports to China, with the stated desire of the US being that the trade deficit is reduced or eliminated entirely. While the explanation for why this is wrong is about as dry as economic arguments can get, the other fact of the matter is that government has very little control over imports and exports beyond tariffs and other restrictions: imports and exports are controlled by the companies that import and export, and they're going to do what is most economically beneficial. Demanding that China lower the trade deficit is functionally an impossible task. Even worse, later in the book, the characters point out that they can't control trade, when companies stop doing business with China!
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  • Author Tract: While all the books feature Clancy's right-wing politics to a greater or lesser degree, The Bear and the Dragon is notable for featuring nearly every intellectual, economic and political cause celebre of the modern American right, with a large amount of time particularly dedicated to abortion rights in the US. How effective this is depends on one's own political orientation.
  • Badass Army: The Russian Army. While they rely heavily on the US for military support and they have an army of conscripts (half of whom did not show up when called into emergency active duty), their tactics are better than the Chinese that have been training for literally years, and they utterly obliterate an entire Chinese army group (about 1,000 tanks and 200,000 soldiers) with brilliant tactics, excellent intelligence and tanks from World War 2. The Chinese head general getting bagged by a sniper right off the bat didn't help.
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  • Call-Back: The scientist who assists the US Navy in converting a AEGIS cruiser into a ballistic missile defense platform is Al Gregory, a character who was last seen working on a ballistic missile defense project in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
  • The Chessmaster: Zhang Han San not only instigates conflicts between the United States and various other countries without putting China in direct confrontation in Debt of Honor and Executive Orders, but is also the puppeteer behind Premier Xu in The Bear and the Dragon. He's too smart for his own good, though, as his machinations, while not explicitly discovered until The Bear and the Dragon, are mostly inferred, and China is punished for it.
  • China Takes Over the World: The People's Republic of China becomes a significant threat to world peace.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted, with the cooperation and friendship between a Baptist minister in China, and the new ambassador from the Vatican receiving a fair amount of attention, and both of their churches sharing the reaction when they die trying to stop a forced abortion.
  • Cold Sniper: Pavel Petrovich Gogol. He even still has his WWII-vintage Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle...complete with notches cut in the stock for each German officer he killed with it.
  • Commie Land The People's Republic of China gets a good bit of focus, as the main antagonists of the book.
  • Dated History: The climax of the book makes sense from the standpoint of a late 80's China, where they had limited nuclear weapons (12, in the book). Modern day China has many more. Additionally, the Chinese conventional forces are significantly stronger these days, with hypersonic warheads that could cause a serious threat to a US carrier group in the Pacific. Russia has also significantly modernised its own forces; while it still relies on conscripts, it also possesses hypersonic warheads and definitely isn't fielding World War 2 tanks anymore.
  • Death from Above: The Joint Stand-Off Weapon "Smart Pig," as the Chinese 29th Type A Group Army find out to their misfortune.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: One of the rare examples of this trope occurring on a national level, as the post-Cold War period eventually ends up with America's foremost strategic partner being Russia.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: SORGE just revealed that the Chinese are considering launching their ICBMs. And since the entire supply of the penetrator bombs that could destroy the silos was just used against the rail bridges, the only option to prevent the missile launches is a joint Spetznaz/RAINBOW assault on the missile fields.
  • Expy: The WWII veteran Russian sniper Pavel Petrovich Gogol is a possible expy of historical sniper Vasily Zaytsev (whose life story was also fictionalized in the movie Enemy at the Gates).
  • Four-Star Badass: Gennady Bondarenko. He's officially given his fourth star when given command of the Far East Military District.
  • Frontline General: PLA General Peng decides to ride with his forward recon unit when it's about to reach the gold mine. It gets him killed.
  • Happily Ever Before: The book ends with a reform movement having overthrown the government of Red China and American and a now-democratic Russia on friendly terms, but in his later novels, Clancy would controversially Retcon this in order to reflect the contemporary political landscape by having it mentioned that the new Chinese government quickly fell and the communists took charge again, while a Vladimir Putin Expy has taken over Russia and turned it into a dictatorship again.
  • IKEA Erotica: This novel features Clancy's first fullblown description; it's mediocre, and that's being charitable.
  • In Its Hour of Need: President Ryan chooses to stay in Washington, DC rather than flee to safety after the Chinese launch their one remaining nuclear missile at the city. He points out that this is really, really stupid, while he's doing it, and gets incredibly drunk afterwards to try to forget the horror.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Zhang Han San is this to Premier Xu.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: An occurrence of this due to family planning laws sets off the principal conflict.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Ryan and the USS Gettysburg shoot down a nuclear missile about to hit Washington, DC, Ryan announces that he is going to go get a drink, and if any of the crew want to join him, he is waiving Navy regulations regarding alcohol consumption for twenty-four hours.
  • Only Sane Man: Fang Guo is the most frequent, and outspoken opponent of war, and repeated warns Zhang he's biting off more than he can chew, to no avail.
  • Pretext for War: When China is preparing to invade Russia, the Chinese Defense Minister suggests that they shoot down a Russian recon plane, and then claim that it had invaded Chinese airspace as a justification for the invasion.
  • Rank Up: Robby Jackson is now Vice President of the United States.
  • Russia Is Western: US and Russia cement a friendship after the Cold War, and join forces to confront China.
  • Stupid Evil: Chinese Politburo member Zhang Han San's racism prevents him from ever apologizing and so the Politburo launch a self-destructive war. Even more, while some of the other ministers speak out against the coming war, and try to pursue a more realistic course of action, when the time comes to vote on starting the war, they all vote for it, despite only three of them actually wanting it, out of fear of not voting for it and therefore standing out.
  • Yellow Peril: China invades Russia. Several characters also use outright racist terms to described their Chinese opponents.

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