Richard Ireton is a Hong Kong-based foreign correspondent for an American weekly news magazine. When he is sent to Guangdong, the Chinese province adjacent to Hong Kong, to investigate the disappearance of Chuck McHale, a missing American, he discovers there are dangerous new political currents flowing through South China.
In the middle of these developments are practitioners of Qigong, a Taoist meditation and martial arts movement, who are rallying around their Great Master Wu. These fiercely anti-foreign Qigong adherents have allied with renegade forces of the Chinese army, and Ireton learns that together they pose a dangerous new threat to peace in Asia and relations with the United States. Ireton’s hunt for McHale, who has run afoul of these Qigong army elements, brings him into the heart of China’s underground “house church” movement, where McHale has sought refuge.