Jack Ryan has only just moved back into the Oval Office when he is faced with a new international threat. An aborted coup in the People's Republic of China has left President Wei Zhen Lin with no choice but to agree with the expansionist policies of General Su Ke Qiang. They have declared the South China Sea a protectorate and are planning an invasion of Taiwan.
The Ryan administration is determined to thwart Chinas ambitions, but the stakes are dangerously high as a new breed of powerful Chinese anti-ship missile endangers the US Navy's plans to protect the island. Meanwhile, Chinese cyberwarfare experts have launched a devastating attack on American infrastructure. It's a new combat arena, but its every bit as deadly as any that has gone before.
Jack Ryan, Jr. and his colleagues at the Campus may be just the wild card that his father needs to stack the deck. There's just one problem: someone knows about the off-the-books intelligence agency and threatens to blow their cover sky high.
This novel contains examples of:
- 10-Minute Retirement: John Clark decides he's too old and too injured to continue. Then he does.
- All Your Base: The Campus comes under direct attack by Center's forces in an attempt to wipe them out.
- Qian Kun is a traditional example.
- Fang Gan is a much darker example, though he does make the right call when he has to.
- Big Bad: Center is the big bad of the novel.
- Blackmail: How Center controls the vast majority of his expansive network of agents.
- This is why Melanie Kraft agrees to help Agent Lipton. Her father traded secrets to the Palestinians accidentally.
- Bungled Suicide: President Wei in the end.
- The Cracker: Center's operatives and Center himself.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: President Wei's death given he seemed one of the nicer figures in the communist party.
- Dirty Communists: The enemy this time around.
- Driven to Suicide: President Wei in the beginning and the end.
- Evil Counterpart: Center is considered to be this by the Campus given they're an off-the-books techno-savvy paramilitary organization working for the Chinese government on deniable missions.
- General Ripper: General Su intends to secure his legacy forcing the United States to back down. The full lengths of insanity aren't revealed to the President until he causally states he's willing to nuke Tawain in order to make sure they're victorious.
- Karma Houdini: Valentine Kovalenko is released by the Campus for his role in taking down Center despite his involvement in numerous murders. Arguably, his experience was enough punishment as he can probably never return home.
- Hollywood Hacking: Both subverted and played straight. A lot of real-life hacking techniques are incorporated into the book as well as terminology but they're then treated as cyber-gods.
- Hope Spot: Valentine Kovalenko has one when he thinks the Russian Foreign Service is willing to help him against Center. It's just Center using another of his operatives to manipulate him.
- Honey Pot: Center arranges one of these on an outside contractor in order to get some spyware on the Campus (unaware it's anything more than a hedge fund).
- Made of Iron: The SEAL time who try to capture the Chienese hacker who turns out being protected by intelligence assets. Almost every member of the group takes at least one serious wound but they manage to keep moving, and often keep fighting, to the extraction point with some help from the Center agents and only take one casualty.
- Manipulative Bastard: Center is one of the best in the entire series.
- Men of Sherwood: A Navy SEAL team is sent to capture a Chinese hacker who the main cast is surveilling without having any idea of how heavily guarded he is. Amazingly, they succeed in their objective (with some help from the leads) and only take one fatality, even though almost all of them are shot at least once.
- The Mole: Melanie continues to spy on Jack Ryan Junior for the authorities. Subverted by the fact they're not the authorities.
- Only Sane Man: President Wei is this to the entire People's Republic of China. It's very likely they would have benefited immensely if they just followed his advice the entire way through.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: How 21st century China is portrayed in the book.
- Red China: The enemies for the book in all their communist mustache-twirling glory.
- Redemption Equals Life: The beginning of the book feature The Center killing several Libyan ex State Sec members who were involved in the death of Brian two books earlier and have since turned to crime after the fall of their government. It is mentioned that two members of the group had broken ties with the others some time earlier for "honest work" (one became a security guard at a jewel store and the other is a factory worker) and thus those two avoid being killed with the others.
- Shame If Something Happened: President Wei says this to President Ryan about General Su. Ryan gets the hint and has him assassinated.
- Ship Sinking: Melanie and Jack breakup due to the lying done in their relationship.
- The Sociopath: Center is explicitly described as this in the text.
- Yellow Peril: Avoided in the book, albeit just barely, by the fact numerous Chinese characters exist to fight the communist menace.
- You Owe Me: President Wei is very well aware that this trope is being put into play when General Su's amy stops a coup against him at the beginning.