The Final Days
By October 2077, the Chinese were on the back foot. The United States had pushed them out of Anchorage entirely and the troops freed up were on the offensive. The Korean Peninsula was retaken in several months of bloody fighting, relieving the pressure on Japan and opening another avenue of advance into the Chinese interior. The Chinese had been steadily pushed out of the south Pacific, their great Spring Offensive of 2077 faltering against American defenses in the Philippines. The recapture of Taiwan in the summer threatened the supply line of these troops. Furthermore, Chinese strategists predicted the US would use the island to launch a large scale amphibious landing near Hong Kong. This would threaten to cut Chinese supply lines to their territory in Indochina and Burma, where they were engaged in a brutal war with India. American troops pushing down the Yangtze could easily link up with this beachhead and encircle a large number of troops. The Red Army was being bled dry in bloody fighting, especially at Kaifeng where a million people had died in just 2077 alone. The continued resistance of this city and other fronts was inspiring, but it was futile. Things were coming to a head for China, they knew they couldn't hold the USA off for much longer while keeping their nation together. Their resources were running dry faster than their men were. Soon they would be totally out of fuel and power and all their military technology would be worthless.
On October 12th the US Army crossed the Yellow River near Zhengzhou. Two days later they also broke through the defensive lines near the Yalu river. American troops flooded into these two fronts, both advancing towards Beijing. The Pentagon saw a way to force the end of the war on American terms. The Chinese deployed the last of their reserve troops to bog down this offensive. On October 20th, with the US Army at the edge of the 'Line of death', the radius by where the Chinese could safely nuke US troops without endangering Beijing from fallout, Chairmen Cheng made efforts to contact the US government. He was requesting a ceasefire so the parties could discuss an end to the war. He made it clear that China was willing to accept concessions on its part. The US state department acknowledge the receipt of the message, transferred from the Army in China. Cheng awaited the reply. meanwhile the Americans kept advancing, to within 100km of the Line of Death. On the evening of October 22nd, Cheng made another attempt to contact the US. The state department relayed a message, they had given the message to the executive branch. There was no further response.
The US kept advancing. Cheng became enraged, convinced that the US was trying to trick him, ordered the preparation of a strike against the USA. He believed that the US would take notice and be forced to seriously consider his proposal. ICBMs were fueled and the Ghost Fleet moved into position. Chinese troops near the Beijing frontline began to prepare tactical nuclear weapons. Satellites spotted missile trucks in the interior of China, preparing liquid fueled theatre ballistic weapons. They did not know that the Chinese only had enough fuel to arm these once, and would either have to fire them or they would be wasted. This added great urgency on Cheng's part, who was resisting the military's desire to strike.
On the evening of October 21st, having heard no response, Cheng relented. The Chinese strike was ordered to go forward on the morning of October 23rd if the US had not responded. The Chinese plan was to win the war outright. They would use tactical nuclear weapons to break the US invaders in their own territory and use mid ranged weapons and the majority of their bombers in order to wipe out their staging grounds and logistics hubs. Knowing the USA was likely going to retaliate against this, the Ghost Fleet was ordered to launch a first strike from close range. It was hoped this could knock out the US command and control nodes and delay their response. This, in conjunction with a stream of experimental long ranged bomber craft, space deployed nuclear warheads and a second wave of SLBMs from Chinese non-stealth submarines, the US would be overwhelmed in the first strike and not risk nuking China back with full strength in order to preserve their soldiers. The Chinese government and high ranking military officials took shelter in specially constructed shelters, modeled after the VAult Tec vaults - except for being made to all function and lacking the crazy experiments. Meanwhile, an evacuation of key technical personnel and certain loyal civilians was begun. A vast tunnel network brought them, with as much material as they could carry, to a national redoubt in the mountainous interior.
The US continued to advance on October 22nd. The Chinese resistance seemed to be slacking and they made great gains that day. Chairman Cheng made one final declaration, released via Chinese media, calling for an immediate ceasefire. He threatened the most serious consequences and demanded the US respond within 24 hours. This release took time to make it through western censors and only reached the population on the morning of the 23rd. By then, Cheng had given the order for the strike to proceed when his ultimatium expired. Planes launched. Submarines surfaced. The missiles went up. The bombs dropped. The US expeditionary force in China and most US forces in southeast Asia were wiped out. Unfortunatly for China the Enclave had long expected and indeed welcomed the war and they had already pre-planned to launch a full retaliation. The Ghost Fleet did its job as best it could but the various silos and launch vehicles all fired their missiles. The US sub fleet launched its own SLBMs, which glassed Beijing and most major remaining Chinese cities. The incoming ICBMs did the rest, while also landing around the rest of Asia for good measure. When the dust cleared, both sides had been devastated.