China’s Cultural and Physical Barriers
Date May 8, 2042
Author Bryan Whalen
Internal Name china_shield
Internal Series  China (series), #2

May 8th, 2042:

An End to Isolation: China's Cultural and Physical Barriers

A VR News Special Report

By: Bryan Whalen

Today hallmarks the tenth year anniversary of China opening its borders to the world. With several decades marred by conflict between India, Pakistan and many other surrounding neighbors, the election of Chan Chi On in 2028 was a landmark moment in their history. While tension continued for many years following, (and ongoing, as talks are still in place for a total nuclear disarmament of both countries), there can be no doubt that China has fully committed themselves to the peace process, and to the ongoing cultural and scientific advancement of humankind.

If you faintly hear the sound of a large "but", don't worry, it's coming.

Except for the fact China has recently brought online massive, high powered energy shields to protect important border crossings and high traffic areas. Despite the enormous breadth and power of these shields, they aren't an overly talked about fact. Prior to my trip to one of their major facilities, as part of the tenth year anniversary celebrations, I did some research across the VR net, Internet and Ex-Net.

I found very little actual information.

Truthfully, it seems the world has very little in the way of caring about China's huge shields. Much of the discussion seemed more to be on the technical aspects of the shields, and the technology behind it. The impression that I took away was that much of the populace in the online medium seems to find the idea to be rather quaint. Protecting themselves? That's such a 20th century idea.

For many years China was locked behind barriers of an entirely different kind. Conflict with Western countries on a theological and cultural level isolated the government, and politically motivated armed conflict in south east Asia made them the big villain of the area. Escalating tensions with India and Pakistan meant that walls had to go up to protect their own populace, trade and physical commodities.

My trip to the major shielding center at the Shipki La, on the border of Tibet and India, was quite informative. While once a major trading center between the two superpowers, it has, as tension between them rose, turned into a predominantly agricultural center between peoples on both sides who didn't happen to agree with the policies of their governments. As technology (and warlike intentions) increased between India and China, the Shipki La pass turned into a No Man's Land, with armed forces staring at each other across a thin strip of heavily mined, turreted and defended barren landscape.

Today, it is similar to how it used to be in the pre Resource Wars days. Trucks rumble back and forth (as all air traffic into China is explicitly forbidden except through a few channels), and the border crossing, while guarded, is by no means difficult. What really stands foreboding over the entire pass is the constructed shield projector standing where there used to be several gatehouses.

Unsurprisingly, it resembles a large curved dragon, with the shield coming from a massive emitter that the statue is holding. The actual shield is a faint red, increasing in intensity through the actual border crossing area, with a large curved opening over the highway and gates.

The general impression I got from the people passing under the shield was one of casual indifference. When questioned, several travelers almost seemed surprised when I pointed it out. Like it was part of the background, or the normal architecture. One man I'd met commented that "Yes, it was very nice looking, and I am sure the Chinese are very proud of it."

This sort of attitude belies the actual cost and complexity of the shield. Developed over an eight year time frame, with a budget estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, the Celestial Dragon Shield encompasses all of the Chinese border, in one form or another.

The celebration at Shiphi La was quite extravagant. The shield was set to rotate between various colors, and it was symbolically closed, and then reopened, amidst fireworks and a live band. Gifts were handed out to the first thirty-eight travelers going across on each side, and food and drink were offered for the rest of the day to everyone passing through. This was a celebration repeated at every crossing, starting at 10:30 AM - exactly twenty years to the minute from when China first closed their borders on May 8, 2032.

That was it. For such a major investment, the shields don't protect against anything. They aren't harmful to touch (besides a mild electric shock), and the largest amount of writing I can find about them is conservationists warning that the shields will affect migratory birds and animals.

It's a lot of investment to mildly disrupt where the Back Necked Crane goes in the winter, but I guess only time will tell whether or not it was an investment worth making.