Ryan, the nonpartisan citizen president, has been reelected, but his negative attitude toward career and typical politicians has not softened. His major advisers, the secretaries of the treasury and defense, are wealthy self-made businessmen, who bring their private enterprise acumen to their departments. Early in the novel, a Japanese American secret CIA agent, whose cover is selling Japanese computers in the People’s Republic of China, has seduced the secretary of Fang Gan, a member of the Chinese Communist politburo or governing council, dominated by Zhang Han San, thus giving the CIA access to the inner workings and conversations of China’s despotic governing elite.
Communist China has been rapidly building up its military, purchasing weapons and other war materials from abroad, but the Chinese economy, in spite of its many exports, verges on bankruptcy, although the members of the politburo are only dimly aware of the impending crisis. Fortuitously, a lifeline appears. Massive amounts of gold and enormous oil reserves are discovered in Russia’s Siberia, the oil reserves alone potentially larger than in the oil-rich Middle East. The gold and oil promise to invigorate and modernize Russian society, struggling since the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade earlier. To the Chinese leadership, the solution to China’s problems is to invade Russia and forcibly seize those valuable resources. Prior to the Chinese military invasion, an attempt is made to assassinate Sergy Golovko, the chief adviser to the Russian president and one-time nemesis of Ryan (but now a friend), as well as the Russian president himself. Both plots fail, however.
From the White House, President Ryan observes the machinations of the Chinese, helped in large part by the CIA’s access to politburo conversations. Militarily, Russia is unprepared for a major invasion of its territory. Old foes of Ryan from the Soviet era are now allies, and Ryan makes the obvious decision to assist Russia against Communist China aggression. As in Executive Orders, the war takes up several hundred pages of The Bear and the Dragon, from the Chinese mobilization to the Russian defensive preparations to the arrival of American forces to the ultimate defeat of the Chinese. The dramatic denouement of the novel results from a decision to eliminate China’s nuclear missiles in fear that they would be used in order to prevent final defeat. However, one missile, aimed at Washington, D.C., was not destroyed. Following prearranged plans for such a disaster, President Ryan is ordered to leave the district, but instead joins the crew on a docked Aegis antimissile ship,...
(The entire section is 610 words.)