Wang Chu, student

Wang Chu studies computer science at one of Beijing's most prestigious universities. That's when he can be bothered to attend.

Mostly he dreams of being the next dot-com billionaire - or any other way of making money with minimum effort.

He lives in fear of his parents, whose expectations he can never meet, sharing a dingy room with two other students.

But for the most part Wang lives in the virtual world beyond the screen of his smartphone. In that world he has an anonymous Twitter-like account called The Gasping Dragon, where he can be whoever he wants to be. Where life is more fun. Where anything goes. Until as a joke he posts an image, and the image goes viral.

That's when the trouble starts.


Chuck Drayton, US diplomat


Chuck Drayton's not-so-stellar diplomatic career should have come to an end after he was withdrawn in disgrace from a posting in Berlin after a very public affair with the wife of a top government minister.

But he's reinvented himself as a computer security expert, and he's been posted to Shanghai as the US Consulate's freshly minted Cyber Guy - because everybody's getting hacked and nobody else seems to get that stuff.

Now he's on the trail of cyber spies, following a digital forensic trail that leads to the door of a secretive unit of the People's Liberation Army.


Anthony Alastair Morgan OBE, British businessman


China has been good for Anthony Morgan. He's grown rich on the back of the China Miracle.

He's Mr China, the go-to man on doing business in the Middle Kingdom and he and his wife are the best corporate investigators in a country where the rules of business are about as clear as the smog that frequently shrouds his luxury Shanghai apartment.

Now the China Miracle is starting to crumble, and although he continues to sell it to gullible investors, he's losing his faith. He posts his true and darkest thoughts to a Twitter account called @Beijing_smog.


Three characters. Three separate stories. They collide after an internet image posted by Wang Chu as a joke goes viral. The result is bizarre and threatening to all of them - but mostly to the Communist Party, which doesn't have a sense of humour