In October 2019, in the city of Wuhan in the People’s Republic of China, virologist Zhou Zhihao is hard at work creating a new virus at the behest of her father, a well-connected doctor who works closely with the national health minister, Ma Xiaowei. An employee at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Zhou is the perfect person to work for this top secret and extremely classified project, one which her father says is “purely for research purposes” and promises to bring China much scientific acclaim. Tasked with the creation of a new virus strain, Zhou’s father requests she also create the vaccine for it. Deeply puzzled by this request, the dutiful Zhou gets to work creating a virus that doesn’t exhibit for at least four days and is highly contagious.  

A short piece of speculative fiction, Contagion Domination by William Nisol imagines the COVID-19 pandemic as a sinister Chinese plot to dethrone and replace America as the world’s leading empire. During covert meetings in August 2019, China’s top civilian and military brass, led by puppet master President Xi Jinping, set out to hatch a plan that would crush America’s industrial and economic capacity. Angered at President Donald Trump’s continued hardline stance and commitment to a trade war with China that is hurting the country, President Xi solicits ideas for how they can loosen America’s stranglehold and deal a devastating blow. 


Heading up the nation’s health department, Minister Ma makes a dubious suggestion that chills the room … but intrigues President Xi: a Chinese-engineered, world pandemic. The only problem? It will kill thousands of their own people if the contagion is released. But he has an answer for that as well: create an antidote at the same time. Unleash hell, but hold back the cure until politically advantageous to China. It will cause the world “to bow down to us, and we will rise in power in no time,” Ma says. Xi likes this plan, and the go-ahead is given.

As Zhou works day and night in the two-tier city of Wuhan, desperately trying to create this made-to-order virus and its vaccine, she inadvertently enlists the help of another virologist, Feng Bo (unbeknownst to her father and Minister Ma). They successfully create the virus and its antidote, but then, Zhou is taken from her home one night, and Bo disappears. The government takes over the distribution of the virus through pesticide spraying of neighborhoods and the release of infected bats across Wuhan. Soon, the dreaded sickness appears. People cough continually until they cannot breathe, some dropping dead in the streets. Zhou’s medical friends become part of the story as they try to spread the word about the virus, only to be shut down ruthlessly by their own government.


Nisol blends elements of truth with fiction in this vivid reimagining of the origins of COVID-19. The Wuhan wet market acts as a fall guy for China’s propaganda as to the origins of the novel coronavirus, for example. But the immediate threat to the secret is China’s own people, the medical staff and academics who can discern the truth through the web of lies spun by their government. As Zhou, Bo and Bo’s professor cousin, Bing Liu, race to help those suffering and share the vaccine formula with a world clamoring for an antidote, Xi and his ministers look to stop them from revealing the sordid truth. For many, the story does not end well.

In this ripped-from-the-headlines alternate history of COVID-19, China holds Zhou’s vaccine over the world’s head in return for policies most favorable to it. In this dark version of events, America caves to China to procure the relief its beleaguered citizens and industries beg for … but at what cost? Nisol delivers a distinctly chilling and diabolical take on how small the lone voice crying in the wilderness can be in relation to those with the power, quite literally, to call all the shots.


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About William Nisol:

William Nisol is a pseudonym. He lived in China for one year and is known by some groups there.