Jack Ryan is still President of the United States. After Russia discovers oil fields rivaling those of the Persian Gulf in Siberia and gold deposits just as big, it looks as if the struggling Russian economy is on the road to recovery. However, China decides to speed up its plan to invade Siberia (this had been delayed after the defeat of Japan during the events of Debt of Honor). The first stage consists of attempting to kill the chairman of the SVR, Sergey Nickolayevich Golovko, by shooting a RPG-7 round at his Mercedes S600 in Moscow's rush hour. However, his life is spared when the hired assassins mistakenly fire on an identical car. Despite this failure, the Chinese manage to kill one of the chairman's former colleagues using the same method.
A roving CNN news team in China captures on videotape the murder of Cardinal Renato di Milo, the Papal Nuncio to Beijing, and a Chinese Baptist minister, Yu Fa An. The men were attempting to prevent Chinese authorities from performing a forced late-term abortion on a member of Yu's congregation, but the situation escalated when an armed police officer in the room thought that his partner being shot at. In reaction to this incident, the American public starts to boycott chinese manufactured products, and President Ryan threatens to re-enact the Trade Reforms Act, brought in during Debt of Honour. With its economy struggling due to recent military expansions, China decided to hasten its planned invasion of Siberia in order to access the newly discovered oil and gold fields. In an attempt to dissuade China from invading Russia, President Jack Ryan persuades NATO to admit Russia, and he personally promises assistance to Russia's President Grushavoy. China invades anyway despite international assistance pledged to Russia. Russia eventually repels the Chinese with help from the United States and NATO, in the process completely annihilating two Chinese Shock-Army formations and severely crippling two others. The U.S. Navy attacks the Chinese mainland coastal defenses and destroys much of the Chinese Navy's fledgling fleet, which also includes their only nuclear submarine, holding half of their nuclear capacity. Against his advisors' opinions, Ryan decides to broadcast CNN's coverage of the war, plus direct feeds from U.S. reconnaissance drones, over a CIA web site to counter the Chinese government's domestic propaganda about the war's status and purpose.
As the war turns against China, Beijing's increasingly desperate leaders decide to ready their ICBMs for a potential launch. A joint NATO-Russian special operations force (including Rainbow), led by John Clark, is dispatched to destroy the ICBMs. The force destroys all but two missiles in their bunkers, and they both launch. One of them is shot down in the air by an AH-64 Apache, but the second warhead heads toward Washington, D.C.. Ryan's family is evacuated, but he decides at the last minute to stay behind on board the USS Gettysburg, which is equipped with an experimental Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. Ryan watches as the ship destroys the ICBM at the last possible moment.
Late at night, a group of students, enraged over the Chinese leadership's handling of the war after watching the video streams in the CIA website, march through Tiananmen Square and invade a Politburo meeting, setting the stage for an overthrow of the government. A reformist Politburo member, Fang Gan, takes over and arrests the men behind the invasion, Premier Xu Kun Piao, Minister Zhang Han San and Marshal Luo Cong. Fang also orders an immediate withdrawal of Chinese forces from Siberia and then holds an open discussion with student leaders to start China's transition to democracy.
- Over several episodes in the fifth series of the British sitcom "My Family", the main character Ben Harper reads The Bear and the Dragon, and eventually starts a book club exclusively discussing that book